February 26, 2010

This is hire and salary, not revenge

A medieval view of hell.

(El Cabrero is sauntering through Hamlet lately. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts. If not, try scrolling down to the links section.)

Things start falling apart quickly in Hamlet by the middle of Act 3. The troupe of actors allows Hamlet to modify an old play to "catch the conscience of the king." The king reacts as a guilty person would and calls off the performance.

Hamlet is summoned to his mother's chambers but has the chance to kill Claudius on the way. He decides not to whack him because Claudius is at prayer and to kill him then would be to send him straight to Heaven. As previously mentioned, to really whack somebody right in Elizabethan theater, you don't just send them out of this world--you dispatch them to the nastier parts of the world to come.

He reasons thus:

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged. That would be scann'd:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season'd for his passage?
Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes.

It's debatable whether Hamlet really thinks this way or is just looking for any excuse not to do the deed.

HOSTAGES. Some right wingers in congress care more about tax breaks for dead millionaires than the 1.2 million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits in March.

LAST CHANCE? Here's Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on President Obama's health care reform proposal. And here's Paul Krugman on yesterday's summit and the future of reform.

INTERESTING IDEA. The Obama administration is considering using the purchasing power of the federal government to nudge private contractors to meet certain job quality standards.

DENYING THE DENIERS. This item by Bill McKibben takes on the climate change denial industry.

THE HUMAN TOUCH can mean a lot.


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