March 05, 2010

Like thieves of mercy (and an action alert)

There are some unlikely plot devices in Hamlet, but I guess you'll have that in a play that opens with a ghost.

One of these occurs when the prince is sent to England in the company of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are carrying a letter to the king of England ordering Hamlet's death. Hamlet opens and reads the letters and changes it to order the death of his former friends. He was just lucky enough to be carrying with him the official seal of Denmark.

OK, I can buy that part, but then the ship is attacked by pirates (!) who wind up taking Hamlet with them and eventually dropping him off in Denmark. As he wrote in a letter to Horatio,

Ere we were two days old
at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us
chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on
a compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded
them: on the instant they got clear of our ship; so
I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with
me like thieves of mercy: but they knew what they
did; I am to do a good turn for them.

(I think I'm gonna use the captured-by-pirates story next time I'm caught playing hookie. )

Another unlikely device is the plan Claudius and Laertes come up with to deal with Hamlet when they find out he's alive after all. They will contrive a fencing match at which Laertes will use poisoned blades and Claudius a poisoned drink. They could have used "more matter with less art" themselves.

It occurs to me that several characters in this play could have used some lessons in The Art of Whack from Tony Soprano...

ACTION ITEM. If you live in West Virginia, please click here to support a bill that would create an office of minority affairs to address racial disparities. The bill passed the House but is in danger of dying in the Senate Finance Committee, which such things often happen.

TWO WEEKS? The White House is pushing for quick votes on its health care reform bill.

ON A RELATED NOTE, Senator Byrd has indicated he might support reconciliation as a way to pass health care reform.

WORLDS APART. Schisms in the US Senate reflect different political and moral universes.

SURVIVAL OF THE NICEST? Some researchers suggest that kindness and generosity may convey some evolutionary advances.

ON THE OTHER HAND, hate groups seem to be doing pretty good these days.


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