The use of the word “sweet” here makes me wonder if Hamlet is thinking of some courtier in particular. It also makes me wonder about Hamlet’s childhood and his relationships with such people.
It must be so weird to be a prince. There must be some confusion around what is genuine affection from adults and what is solicitousness for the royal child. Did baby Hamlet feel the “sweet” from a courtier? Did it make him favor one over the other? Do courtiers sometimes slip child princes little bits of candy or sweets to curry future favor from a future king?
An emotionally intelligent child will likely learn to discern such differences but I imagine some of them never work it out.
My friend and I were talking about the enneagram recently and so it’s on my mind. I used to think about it all the time but I’ve shaken off a lot of the shackles of my type so I don’t have to think of it much. But we were talking about it and, you know, I’m a nine and I was just thinking how much Horatio reminds me of myself in some ways and how that means that I have very little interest in playing him and how that made me realize that he is also probably a nine. This line makes me think so because I try to be supportive in precisely the same way.
And there is a way that on my worst days, I feel a little bit like a cipher, the way I can sometimes feel like Horatio is – or just a 9, disappearing into Hamlet.
Politicians do indeed seem to be trying like hell to circumvent God. Especially lately. And when I say “God,” I mean an accountability for one’s moral choices. I mean – the same men who want to keep women in the house to avoid getting raped, turn the other way when confronted with a rapist who shares their political position.
The way they can casually eliminate the means of survival of millions of people without a thought. This suggests to me that they think they can get around the rules of God. It’s shocking – especially in religious people.
And who is the most politician-like character in this play? Who is the most politic? Who speaks in long-winded obfuscating speeches? Claudius, Claudius, Claudius.
I mean, Polonius, too, to a degree. But he’s not quite as good at the politics. He speechifies but his speeches don’t sound like a politician.
Hamlet himself can get a wee bit political here and there but Claudius is my pick for an association with politics. I imagine he was just as political even before he was king.
But in any case, the gravedigger, this ass, is better than the politician is – just by being alive, of course – but also in his treatment of the former politician’s head. He could bop him on the head with no consequences. The politician has entered the gravedigger’s kingdom now.
This is one of those beautifully inconspicuous bits of invention here. Jowls, normally a noun for one’s jaw or cheeks or hanging flesh, here becomes a verb, a verb like throw, perhaps. Jowl and throw having a couple of letters in common and a sound in common so we can work out what he means when he says the knave jowls it to the ground.
If I were going to use jaw as a verb, I’d use it to mean something related to the mouth, like chew or talk but that does not appear to be what’s happening here. We’re in a zone where a word appears out of its common usage and then poof! We’re also time traveling and this skull and/or jawbone is suddenly shifted to the opening bits of the bible. We get chewing and throwing and killing all at once – all from the actions of this one “knave” described by Hamlet.
I love that the thing the skull could do when it had its tongue is singing. There are so many other things a tongue in a living skull could do – talk, kiss, eat, lick, taste, tie cherry stems into knots – but singing has a poetry that the others lack.
And it is surely not insignificant that the gravedigger has been singing at his work, connecting us from a living, singing man to the skull of a dead one.
But, I think, when I am gone, it will be the singing I’ll miss the most.
Throws up a skull.
I mean if ever a line was made for a gif – it’s this.
I want the gravedigger to vomit a skull.
I mean – that’s the thing with these stage directions. Only a handful were written by Shakespeare himself – or the original printers of the plays.
Is this one? I would be surprised if it was but…as it is…
Just picture someone vomiting a skull. It’s clearly not what’s happening here. It’s just that an editor has felt that it may not be obvious to the reader what Hamlet is referring to and so invents a stage direction that brings the skull into it.
But here we see the way language can confuse. S/he means that a skull comes out of the grave in some way, either in the hand of the gravedigger or on his shovel or flying out in a spray of dirt. But instead it’s possible to see this in exactly the wrong way as a puking gravedigger. Throwing up bones like an owl does.
I guess no one of us really sees age coming until he has us in his clutch. My 40s caught me entirely by surprise. I thought I would be 30 forever. I thought I was 30 for years before I was 30, since my childhood, really, when I was continually horrified by the indignities of childhood. So since I was basically always 30, I found turning 30 to be quite a relief – like, finally, I am the age I’ve always felt myself to be. And all the numbers following thirty were still just thirty, just varieties of 30. But forty! My god I was not prepared. Not at all.
And now I am confronted with all the things that start to happen with age – medical tests that seemed so far in the future, a cloak of invisibility on the street, the way I don’t look my age in the exact reverse I used to get in my teens. I used to look older, now I look younger.
And even though I am likely to be in the exact middle of my life, I start to consider the end in a way that I never did before. I have a tab open on my browser to remind me to write a will. So…yeah. Age suddenly has me in his clutch. He will likely be my constant companion now for the second half of my life.
Even when I am fully employed, I tend to have a daintier sense than most. It has always been thus. And it always felt as mocked as the word daintier suggests it is. I have been called “too sensitive” my whole life. I have come to learn that this sensitivity is not necessarily a flaw but a trait shared by a small but significant part of the population. That is – there is an official name for a person with a nervous system with this measurable daintiness. I am a Highly Sensitive Person. And it does have its advantages.
Today I can’t remember what those advantages are because I’m feeling overwhelmed, like a canary coughing in a coal mine, trying to get the world’s attention but knowing they won’t see the problem until I’m dead on the floor of the cage.
But there are advantages to this kind of sensitivity.
Curiously though, I’m not at all troubled by a gravedigger singing while he digs graves. I think singing will help you in every troubling situation. I’m all for it. And my dainty sensibilities almost never got disturbed by theatre – I always know it’s pretend. In film though, I can’t even watch someone getting an injection without turning away.
We all do it. We chunk our information so we don’t have to think more deeply about things. We get satisfied with simple reductions of complex issues because we just would really rather not take the time to understand. I thought I was better than that but I am not. Not at all.