I had my father’s signet in my purse Which was the model of that Danish Seal.

Now – I know that when Hamlet says purse, he probably means a tiny little drawstring bag to keep money in. It’s the sort of bag one could tie to one’s self, I expect. But I would love to see a Hamlet with a purse in the way that we think of it now – like a handbag or a pocketbook (as my grandmother would have called it). A Hamlet with a (modern) purse would be a very interesting Hamlet.

But just writing this now, writing all the words for a bag that women carry, I’m struck by how each of them has come to have a layer of condescension over it. The bags women carry inevitably seem to absorb quite a bit of misogyny in the journey. I think this is why, even when I carried a purse, I was wary of calling it one. But here’s Hamlet talking merrily of keeping his father’s ring in his without the slightest suggestion of embarrassment.

Also, let’s think about pocketbook for a second. I mean – why does pocketbook sound like a joke? Because older ladies say it? It’s two great things in one. Pockets! And books! And pockets are extremely political. The choice to leave pockets out of women’s clothes? Sexist as hell. 

Anyway – that’s maybe why I want to see a Hamlet with a modern purse – because I’d like to reclaim purse for all of us.


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