This most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire – why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.

Damn you, Hair! I cannot read this line without singing the melody. And because the song got into my brain first (I had the soundtrack and was in a production as a teen) it makes it seem like the Shakespeare is wrong.

I feel like it should be “why it appears no other thing to me” because that was the lyric. I guess it scanned for the melody better. I think it would take MANY performances, rehearsals, repetitions of speaking this correctly before the correct text would seem right. It is a startlingly beautiful line, both the most delicate description of the air and the most horrible.

Lines like this are one of the reasons this play stands out. In Hamlet, Shakespeare had the perfect conduit for painfully beautiful language. It’s perfectly pitched, not ornate or beautiful for beauty’s sake. It is a string of juicy words that also serve a clear purpose.


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