And let him ply his music.

In the 8th grade version of Hamlet we did last month, Polonius always said this line as “And let him PLAY his music.” I never corrected him – we had other things to worry about – but now that I’m looking at it and remembering, I’m wondering if it might once have been play. It’s very possible that a typesetter left out a letter in printing the folio. (Oh wait. Text question: Does this scene appear in the folio and/or both quarto? Give me the answers, Internet! If it’s in all three as PLY, it’s not a printing mistake. – – – time passing, internet checking – – – And lo, the Internet provides. The 1st Quarto has this line as “Bid him ply his learning.” So, uh, it’s clearly PLY.)
Certainly there’s a kind of Attempt implied in plying. I guess even implying is a sort of trying – an attempt to say something without saying it. One plies one’s trade – is that what Polonius is implying? That Laertes (or Leartes in the 1st Quarto!) should be allowed to pursue his interests, to chase his vices as if they were his career? And why music? There has been no mention of music before now; Where did this metaphor come from? Or is it not a metaphor? Maybe Laertes is a secret flautist? If so, he might ply or play his music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.