REJECTED PLANS for murdering HAMLET with LAERTES as the ORGAN
1) Claudius offers Hamlet pipe organ lessons. Laertes hides in the hollowed body of the fake organ and as soon as Hamlet presses the F# key, releases the pointiest pipe and runs it through him.
2) Death by a giant dressed up penis. Claudius rents Laertes a giant cock costume (like the one Russell Howard’s fan comes out in in his special) and Hamlet laughs himself to death while Laertes chases him.
3) Claudius puts Hamlet on the organ donor list and when someone requests a kidney, after removing Hamlet’s kidney, he replaces it with Laertes who has shrunk himself down to kidney size and wrapped himself in an organ disguise. Once installed in Hamlet’s body, he breaks loose and causes havoc as the Wandering Kidney of Denmark.
4) Claudius brings Hamlet to a giant map of the (as yet undiscovered) United States and they tour the many states of the future. Claudius has hired many people to dress up as each state and then discuss their qualities. Laertes, as Oregon, waits in the West to drown him in micro-brewed beer.
If I were a notebook, I would not be ruled. I would have clean pages – sometimes called plain. I would thrill at the possibilities that might emerge across my canvas.
Words, yes, it could be words. Words in any orientation – large, small, slanting up or down. Sometimes a mix of all.
But there might also be drawings, or diagrams or maps. Those things might be possible on ruled pages but the ruling will always hang out in the background – projecting the words that are expected to fit in between the lines.
Laertes will be ruled.
I will be open pages.
And we have landed here on the crux of the thing. Claudius has meandered his way here to “his death” and it all starts to get a whole lot clearer a whole lot faster. There’s a complex wind up and then it’s a very simple pitch. Boom. He’s gonna die and it’s gonna look like an accident. Boom. How you like that, Laertes? Boom.
Claudius! Is this how you think? Are we seeing a Claudius thought being formed as you talk? Is that what’s happening here? I mean – this is one long meander-y sentence. I feel like Claudius must be one of those people who just starts talking and hopes he’s worked out what he’s going to say by the time he gets to the end of his thought.
It makes me think of a bit of advice that Anne Bogart gave in her book about directing. It was to just start talking – to say “I have an idea!” and start walking to the stage and just do whatever occurs to you as you go. I feel like Claudius is doing that here. His wind-up is the stuff about Hamlet’s return and then boom – he’s at an idea – a device. OR – he’s at the moment where he declares he has an idea but is probably not yet clear what it is.
I suppose this is all any of us can ask for. The world is full of chaos and discord. To find peace outside of ourselves may well be impossible. To focus on all of the disturbances out there – the wars, the political unrest, the catastrophic weather somewhere. There will always be something to disrupt the peace. But our own peace – that is more possible. It becomes less and less possible the closer any of those things comes to home. To find thine own peace in a war zone is a real feat of internal peace-making. To find mine own peace while my government implodes and causes chaos in the whole population – well, it’s not as easy as it once was. The things outside of us do impact our own peace – but I suppose that’s the work. That is what the job is – to find thine own peace even when it seems as though there is none to be had.
I just watched a video of Nelson Mandela coming out at a Johnny Clegg concert and when asked to say something, said, “It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world and at peace with myself.”
That’s a man who knew how to find his own peace when it was not easy.
A peace is an interesting construct. In more quotidian speech, most of us might be more inclined to say “make peace” here. It wouldn’t take any more syllables and could be spoken with the same emphasis if necessary. But A peace is compelling in its one of many sense. There are many peaces that can be made in the world, of which this would be one and there is also The Peace, which is more broad ranging in some ways and also more local in that it is almost always used in the sense of keeping the peace or disturbing it. But Laertes is not interested in being led to a peace. That’s probably just one peace of many but the most significant one with Hamlet is his main concern.
There are only a handful of places I like to be ruled.
1) in a clown show. Because the sterner the authority is, the more fun it becomes to subvert their authority
2) in games – because a good set of rules can be freeing
3) in an improvisation (see #1)
Otherwise, I much prefer to set the rules than be ruled. It’s why an actor’s life was not for me. Writer’s? Yes. I can write my own rules. Director’s? Yes. I can set the rules for the room. But actors just submit and submit and submit.
I just published a blog about what it’s like to be a woman in public. I noted particularly that when I’m away from the city, I am usually an anomaly as a single woman. What’s hilarious, though, is on this first day back in the city, which I expected to be a refuge from that phenomenon, I am in a café that happens to have nothing but men in it. And one of them has seated himself in the table across the way, seemingly so he can stare at my cleavage. So. It is not always easy in the city, either. This is a Moroccan café and perhaps it attracts more men than usual because of its origins? I don’t know. But… the irony is thick due to my strong need to feel back in a safer environment.
Claudius starts to get real vague here. When a person starts getting vague in Shakespeare, it’s probably a signal that a murder is getting planned. I mean – sometimes it’s obvious – but sometimes when a character wants to get another character eighty sixed, he starts to get really cagey.
“As how should it be so?” is really pretty cagey. It requires following the logic from Laertes getting to tell Hamlet something to his teeth. But it does not automatically follow that that should lead to his death. Claudius is getting vague and crossing a line but not obviously.
No one names their kid Laertes
Even though he’s a perfectly decent guy
Who gets manipulated by the king.
They’ll name their kid Horatio
Or Francisco or Bernardo
But I’ve never met a Laertes.
Come to think of it, though, I’ve never met a Hamlet, either. Even though
He’s one of the most human, complex, interesting characters to be found.
His ending is probably
Prohibitive for child-naming.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never met a Polonius either.
What’s curious, though, is that that prohibition
Does not seem to apply to women.
I have met Ophelias and there have been other famous Gertrudes:
Lavinia’s end in Titus has not prevented parents from using her name –
Nor Cordelia. Nor Emilia.
I guess as women we’re expected to have tragic ends.