What would the world be like if we came to and went from the world without gender? Like – when you’re born, you’re just a baby – no gender and then, you pour yourself into one gender or the other (or not!) Then you spend your life as a woman, say, and at your death, your gender vanishes with you, you revert to simple personhood.
If this were a riddle, the answer would be a child – for a child is neither man nor woman.
But – luckily that is not the situation here, as nothing kills comedy quicker than a dead child. Dead baby jokes may have been all the rage in elementary school but that is due primarily to the shock value, I think – and perhaps to a lot of kids having annoying baby siblings. Otherwise – even a hint of dead children will murder any hope of comedy happening in its wake.
There’s something about this line that calls to mind some of the exchanges in Twelfth Night – Viola talking about her father’s daughter who loved a man, for example – or Feste splitting hairs with language. There is a rhythm to this kind of comedy. This moment links back to Hamlet toying with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern earlier, when “man delights not me.”
It all just has comedy rhythm and it is fun to play with gender in comedy.
If we could pass quickness to one another, quickness in the sense of life, that would be an interesting world. Mothers would almost always give life to their children. Lovers would keep passing life back and forth between them. “I’ll die for you.” “No, I’ll die for you!” “No, I’ll die for you!” “No – I give MY life to YOU!” Being a lover would become quite hazardous to one’s level of life.
But in a way, we do give one another life. We energize each other with love, with attention, with affection, with inspiration.
If you dig it, it is yours – no matter who lies in it after. Or perhaps it changes ownership once a body is laid in a grave? It starts as the maker’s and shifts to the body’s once it has been covered over. The hole, now filled, no longer belongs to the hole maker.
I’ve rarely heard this line spoken in such a way that gave it anything but a sort of “I know you are but when am I?” quality.
But looking at it now – it’s got a sense of – splitting hairs about location. Hamlet accuses the gravedigger of lying in the grave. The gravedigger accuses Hamlet of lying outside of it – which confirms its ownership, at least in the negative.
Also – the status of the characters is immediately obvious to both of them. Hamlet delivers a sirrah, an informal address and the gravedigger gives back a You. He doesn’t know who Hamlet is but he knows he should be using formal speech with him.
It would be kind of cool if we were actually made of clay. If we broke a finger or an arm, we could just go in to a human sculptor and they could mold us a new one and just smooth it into the socket. I imagine we’d be a little simpler – our symptoms would be easier to diagnose if we were made of only one material.
But then – we would likely be simpler in thought, too, if we were made of solid clay. Our thoughts would be clay. Our emotions – clay. Our imaginations – only clay.
My friend likes to point out that communists must have not spent any time with children or they would have known it could never really work. It is pretty remarkable how embedded the impulse to ownership can be. To watch children lay claim to things, to see them scramble for mine, mine, mine – it does kind of make sense that true communism is hard to make work.
Another thing about clay – aside from being a sort of dirt that’s good for putting dead people in the ground – is that clay really can help with the smell.
If you’re burying a decomposing body, a place that helps reduce odors is a really good idea. They put clay in natural deodorant – why wouldn’t you put your smelly decaying dead guest in a clay pit? It’s a great way to reduce body odor.
I’d totally listen to a gravedigger’s mix-tape. I’d love to hear more songs about pick-axes and spades and shrouding sheets. I fear that this one is one of the few but I would so love to hear all the gravedigger’s work songs.