Caps, hands and tongues, applaud it to the clouds:

It’s amazing how often “the people” means “the men.”
I mean – democracy was born in a world where, amazingly, “The people” could govern themselves. But they weren’t the people. They were the men. For women – there wasn’t a significant difference in being ruled by a monarchy or democracy. In some cases, at least with a monarchy, you might stand a chance of getting a woman in charge sometime.
That’s why this sentence strikes me as interesting. Because caps could potentially include both genders. It’s more likely to be the caps of men…but hands and tongues could belong to anyone.

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And, as the world were now but to begin, Antiquity forgot, custom not known, The ratifers and props of every word, They cry ‘choose we: Laertes shall be king:’

It would be interesting if, having forgotten absolutely all history or tradition, if the world began anew, to have the first people choose their king. We think of the impulse of democracy, of choosing our leaders as being so evolved, so at the top of the development chain – but what if it were instead our birthright – our first thought. What if we were born assuming we could choose our leaders. I mean – it’s a good idea to have people choose their own leaders but maybe not if it’s the rabble. If it’s the shouting mob who slide their loyalty to the first smooth talker that says what they want to hear…that’s maybe not democracy but the loudest, most aggressive, bulliest voices making their choice.

The rabble call him lord;

We’re in the midst of this crazy election right now. There are so many times where it feels like there are hordes of people who are not individuals but a seething sort of mass – an emotional irrational sometimes violent crowd. Before this year, I’m not sure I really thought of groups of people as rabble. But now…well. With images of people attacked at rallies because they had brown skin or booed for simply existing…well, rabble seems very appropriate.

*And side note: I wrote this two years ago. And um…the rabble has only gotten worse in the lag time from typing it up to posting it. Oh oh the rabble, folks, the rabble.

The ocean, overpeering of his list, Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste Than young Laertes, in a riotous head, O’erbears your officers.

What is the ocean’s list? Is it an actual list? Like the Ocean’s To Do list?
1) roll over the shore
2) make waves
3) be deep
4) provide home for creatures large and small
5) work with boats as they sail over top
6) try not to drown anyone unnecessarily
7) remind those who are foolhardy who is the boss
8) salinate

And the overpeering would then be doing something more than what was on the list? Like, the ocean covering lowlands when it was definitely not supposed to. But maybe the ocean’s list is its turning – the way a boat lists to one side.
Or the other list in this play, list, list, oh listing…like the ocean didn’t listen and just went ahead and devoured those flats when it wasn’t supposed to.

Save yourself, my lord.

Okaaaay. How exactly? It’s like – the door would appear to be the only way in and that’s the way the trouble is. How is the King to save himself? Use this drama queen as a shield? Or his actual queen?
Bring the crazy maiden back in and release her on the troubling hordes?
Some advice is not particularly helpful.
Arm yourself might be useful here.
Run away through the secret entrance.
Jump out the window.
And then what’s funny about this speech is that he says “save yourself” and then proceeds to tell a long story about what’s happening. Does he explain because Claudius doesn’t do what he expected when told to save himself?

Which, as her winks, and nods and gestures Yield them, Indeed would make one thing there might be thought, Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.

I am so interested in Ophelia’s winks and nods and gestures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Ophelia winking. I’ve seen some crazy Ophelias but a wink is such a funny thing for her to do. Which is probably why she’s not usually played with winks.
It might feel a little like those guys from the Monty Python sketch where the guys go, “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.” Which, though completely out of place in most productions of Hamlet, would still be compelling. Weird. But compelling.

And what are her gestures? Nods, obviously. But what is she doing gesture-ly that is out of the ordinary. It would be fun to find out.

Her speech is nothing, Yet the unshaped use of it doth move The hearers to collection; they aim at it, And botch the words up to fit their own thoughts;

Sometimes it feels like this is what we’re all doing all the time, gathering sense out of nonsense, projecting our own thoughts onto the screen of what other people say.
We seem to understand one another but we may be missing what is in front of us entirely. Botching up our own meaning.

Speaks things in doubt, That carry but half sense:

And here is where I think we really make the connection with girls becoming teens – why the book on the subject is called Reviving Ophelia. Because it is the speaking things in doubt all of a sudden that really gets to the heart of the difficulty with so many girls’ journey into adolescence. Everything that was sure and confident can slip very easily into doubt. Sense becomes less important than fitting in, than beauty, than appearances.
They still know things but don’t know that they know them anymore.

Spurns enviously at straws;

This image is so evocative. I imagine her shouting at a little piece of straw that she’s startled by on a floor somewhere. Maybe she thinks it’s a snake. Maybe it’s like those cats startled by cucumbers – seeing something they didn’t expect to behind them.
I imagine straw was a bit more common to see in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it gets brought in on the feet of a courtier who’s come in from outside, where the horses stand in straw. Maybe it lives on the floor of a kitchen and so makes its way into even the most ornate beautiful elegant rooms. And of course in my urban life, the more common straws are the ones in drinks and to watch someone spurn one of those enviously would also really be something to see.

and hems, and beats her heart;

I’ve been having this experience with this speech as I’ve been looking at it these last few days – one that I couldn’t understand until today. This text is incredibly familiar to me – as is most of Hamlet, truth be told, given all the ways I’ve worked on it over the years. But this speech has the quality of something I memorized, something I worked on, a role I played. But I have never played the Gentleman. It’s also a speech that rarely gets done in the educational settings I have tended to work in. So it’s not that I guided some student through it.

Reading this line, though, I finally worked out why it’s been ringing so many bells. And that is because when I was in Hamlet in my first acting job, there was some serious drama offstage. I wrote a long poem about that and included bits of text that were particularly salient. This speech made a lot of appearances. And because I read and re-read that poem, I feel like I know this speech much more intimately than I know some others. I have spoken those lines – just in a different context.