March 15, 2010

A hit, a very palpable hit

Some of Goat Rope's regular readers will be glad to know that this is just about the end of a long jag on Hamlet. If you've already had your limit, scroll down to the links and comments section.

We're now at the climax of the play, when Hamlet and Laertes are about to engage in a fencing match. The king, who has conspired with Laertes to poison Hamlet, pretends to have made a fine bet on his victory. As the courtier Osric puts it,

The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary
horses: against the which he has imponed, as I take
it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their
assigns, as girdle, hangers, and so: three of the
carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very
responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages,
and of very liberal conceit.

Hamlet asks Laertes for his pardon, blaming his madness for the death of Polonius:

Give me your pardon, sir: I've done you wrong;
But pardon't, as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punish'd
With sore distraction. What I have done,
That might your nature, honour and exception
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.
Who does it, then? His madness: if't be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o'er the house,
And hurt my brother.

I'm not sure I'd buy it if I was Laertes, but with all the twists and turns of plot it's hard to tell just how mad or sane Hamlet was. Laertes is not reconciled but pretends to agree to a truce.

I am satisfied in nature,
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most
To my revenge: but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof; and will no reconcilement,
Till by some elder masters, of known honour,
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungored. But till that time,
I do receive your offer'd love like love,
And will not wrong it.

You know how it turns out. They fight, exchange wounds and blades in the mixup and wind up poisoning each other. Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine intended for Hamlet. Laertes confesses all and says "The king's to blame." Hamlet finally revenges his father's murder by killing Claudius.

The thrill of seeing it live was of course the fight scene, something audiences were as crazy about in Shakespeare's time as our own.

But there are still a few great lines left, which will keep until tomorrow.

MEMORY LANE. Has it been 20 years since WV's great teacher's strike? I guess so. I remember it fondly. After the UMWA/Pittston coal strike ended in early 1990, I was going through labor dispute withdrawal when state teachers were kind enough to oblige me. The strike spread like wildfire from southern WV and won major gains for teachers. It was a short wild ride.

RETURNING VETERANS from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan face higher unemployment rates than civilians.

A NEW POVERTY TRAP. Private for-profit schools often lure students into heavy student loan debt without delivering on the promise of good paying jobs.

TALKING SENSE ON PRISONS. Here's an op-ed on prison overcrowding by my friend the Rev. Matthew Watts.

DID I MENTION that I hate the day after daylight savings time goes into effect?


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