I’ve been having this experience with this speech as I’ve been looking at it these last few days – one that I couldn’t understand until today. This text is incredibly familiar to me – as is most of Hamlet, truth be told, given all the ways I’ve worked on it over the years. But this speech has the quality of something I memorized, something I worked on, a role I played. But I have never played the Gentleman. It’s also a speech that rarely gets done in the educational settings I have tended to work in. So it’s not that I guided some student through it.
Reading this line, though, I finally worked out why it’s been ringing so many bells. And that is because when I was in Hamlet in my first acting job, there was some serious drama offstage. I wrote a long poem about that and included bits of text that were particularly salient. This speech made a lot of appearances. And because I read and re-read that poem, I feel like I know this speech much more intimately than I know some others. I have spoken those lines – just in a different context.