A tanner will last you nine year.

Do tanners still call themselves tanners? I’ve never met one – though I do feel I’ve seen some at, like, craft fairs or artisanal events. Mostly they just sell leather goods, they don’t seem to be tanning them necessarily – at least not right there. I get the sense that it is a pretty smelly process. But. I have met people with the last name of Tanner and it is remarkable to realize that generations ago, those folks were tanners. And according to the gravedigger, they decompose a little slower than the rest of us.

I’ faith, if he be not rotten before he die – as we have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce hold the laying in – he will last you some eight year or nine year.

I can find no actual evidence of this but I have always interpreted pocky corses as corpses with the pox – that is, bodies that died with the plague or some other wasting disease that rots you before you get into the ground and probably even before you die. Or, like, leprosy, which might lose you whole portions of your body before you gave up the ghost. And all of that makes me wonder if the gravedigger is referencing a plague outbreak, and particularly, the one that closed London’s theatres for a bit. I imagine Shakespeare’s audience had recently seen more pocky corpses than they would have liked. So, too, they might particularly identify with a gravedigger who is irreverent with bodies. Probably the whole population had to get immune to dead bodies at a certain point – and a pocky corse might get you a laugh of recognition.

I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.

I feel like I can imagine being a gravedigger but I find it harder to imagine having a thirty year gravedigging career. I mean – almost every day – for thirty years, you are surrounded by earth and death and of course a skull is just a normal part of the job after thirty years of running into them.
Thirty years is a long time to do anything. They only thing I have been doing that long is theatre – and that’s my calling…but is gravedigging a calling? If so – what kind of person is called to it?

Faith, e’en with losing his wits.

It would be a funny world if losing your wits was like losing your keys or your wallet. Like, you just temporarily misplace them – you look around and search in all the usual places and the places they absolutely shouldn’t be but you search there anyway, just in case. “Oh, man, they were just here! I feel like I just had my wits and then …where could they be? I had them in my hand and – what did I get distracted and put them down in a silly place?”

Then when you find them, you forget the panic you felt for the short time you were without them.

There the men are as mad as he.

If everyone is mad, then is it really madness or just the way things are? If, say, everyone in Minnesota heard voices – and were basically schizophrenic…are they really mad? And would a state of schizophrenic people find ways to manage their idiosyncrasies? If you were schizophrenic it might be really comforting to go to a place where everyone shared your illness. Perhaps we might no longer even consider it an illness but just the Minnesotan way of doing things.

‘Twill not be seen in him there.

Context really is everything. The place I went to college was full of individualists, non-conformists and freaks. The out of the ordinary was the norm. It wasn’t the goths all in black that stood out. No. Where I went to college, there was a guy who wore a jacket and tie fairly regularly. If you were trying to tell someone else about him, you’d say, “You know, the Republican” and they’d nod and say, “Oh yeah. That guy.”
Turns out he wasn’t even a Republican, he just looked like one on our campus of freaks. If he’d gone to another school, he’d have fit right in, never made a wave, but at ours, absolutely everyone knew who he was.

Or, if he do not, it’s no great matter there.

There are places where a little madness can fit right in – where it might not be as obvious. The theatre tends to be one of those places. Behavior that would get you thrown out of an office is perfectly placed on a stage. The strictures of a theatre life are less confining.

But…in a lot of cases, some folks suffering from some madnesses do better in an office. They will cope better with clearly defined rules of behavior, with narrow lanes. Those lanes are easier to stay in. It’s sometimes easier to drive down a road with no choice about how you do it.

He shall recover his wits there.

Actually, it’s probably better to send your mad friends and relatives to another country than the usual alternative in history. At least a change of scenery gives a person something positive and a degree of freedom. The “cures” for such things could be brutal and violent and most likely did more harm than good.
Later, institutions for the mad were such places of horror, it must have been like giving your loved one a death sentence to send them there.
Lord knows that foreign travel does wonders for my mental health.