February 15, 2010

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth

(El Cabrero has been meandering through Hamlet lately. If you're a fan, please click on earlier posts. If, God forbid, you are not, scroll down to the links and comments below.)

There's really no nice way to say it so I'll just say it: Polonius, father of Ophelia and advisor to Claudius, is a twit. A royal twit, one might say. Pretentious, pompous, wordy, he is a comic figure who doesn't know he's funny.

He is particularly fond of spying. He overhears Laertes' conversation with Ophelia, sends a servant to spy on his son in Paris and has a fatal tendency to spy on Prince Hamlet.

In scene 1 of Act 2, he's in his spying prime as he coaches Reynaldo on how to sniff out Laertes' character. Reynaldo is told to seek out Danes in France, ask after him, admit some slight acquaintance and then insinuate that he's a wild youth. He is to suggest that the young man is addicted not only to gambling, but to

drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing: you may go so far.

Drabbing, by the way, was consorting with those whose physical affections are on the market. These habits were not considered to be major character flaws but rather

the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.

The idea was to get the Danes to either cough up more scandalous behavior or else clear him of these changes:

See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out...

The main carp, as in bottom feeding fish of little culinary desirability, it seems to me, is Polonius himself.

HEALTH CARE REFORM. This AP article suggests not finishing the job will cost more than finishing it.

NOT ENOUGH. This NY Times editorial argues that while some Republican ideas about health care reform have merit, they don't go far enough.

THE 10 DEADLY SINS. Here's a look at some destructive human behaviors. Did your favorites make the list?


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