‘Tis a chough.

The note on Genius says that a chough is a chatterbox. I think this is one of those ourobouros meanings. Someone has decided that this word means something that the character seems to be. However – some light googling reveals that a chough is actually a bird – a species of crow, to be precise, or a jackdaw. And that is much more meaningful than “chatterbox.” A crow is a very particular sort of bird to invoke. There is the sense of their tendency to show up where you don’t particularly want them – perhaps their tendency to steal – or their tendency to make a great deal of noise. As a performer, thinking of Osric as a jackdaw – a crow – does a whole lot more for me than a “chatterbox.” It could give me a full character if I wanted. It could give me a voice – a cawing quality of speech – it could give me a sense of preening – as crows do seem to be quite aggressively proud birds.

All these years with Hamlet and I never looked up this word before but it could be such a rich investigation. And Shakespeare’s knowledge of the natural world suggests to me that he would not be unaware of the layers.

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