Once Gertrude starts saying, “Alas” it becomes her go to word. She used it in the previous scene with Hamlet and now the Alases keep on coming. Next up – “Alack” which is really just like “Alas” with a slight sound variation.
Gertrude’s right. For her troubles do come in battalions. Once the “alas” well has been tapped, it’s just going to stream Alas until the end of the play.
I like when words reappear in a scene. It feels like the characters are really listening to one another, letting their language bleed from one to the other. Before she started singing, Ophelia has said, “Nay,” in a sentence full of repeating sound. She has said, “SAY you? NAY, PRAY you, mark.”
And here is Gertrude echoing the NAY and then Ophelia will return with PRAY.
Tracking this sound throughout this scene is like a little bell chiming every time there is another “AY” – There will be THEY – with a near rhyme in GRAVE – and MAY – and LAY – and MAID – and BLAME.
Almost all of it in Ophelia’s language. This, though, is a reflection from Gertrude and it feels like it indicates that she’s really listening.
This morning I was sung to by my friend, her five year old son and his nanny. It’s my birthday today and it strikes me that one of the pleasures of this day is having people sing to me. It’s sweet to be greeted with a song. It doesn’t matter what the melody is or the words. It’s just nice that there is a tradition that once a year you are sung to.
Other holidays feature music and songs, certainly – but this is a direct singing. It is singing dedicated to one person. Once a year. Sung badly or beautifully, it is nice to be sung to.
She must look a sight! Or be doing something out of the ordinary – perhaps something inappropriate. She could just look really disheveled or she could be going as far as attempting to take a shit in the corner. It sort of depends on how crazy you want Ophelia to be.
It could be a lift of the skirt or leaves in her hair.
Something about the look of her must inspire this How Now from the Queen.
Guilt is an overfull caffe latte in a porcelain cup. It sits on the table hoping and praying it won’t spill over the edge. It’s such a delicate bubble on top. It could spill over at any moment. The coffee looks over the edge, “We’re not going to hit that saucer, are we?” Then it checks on the other side, “How about over here? Is this side okay? How far to the saucer over here?” And then it checks on the other side again and before too long it is sloshing back and forth and in that sloshing, spills over the sides.
When I played this part 20 years ago, I hadn’t experienced any real anxiety. I worried about things, sure, but had not yet experienced any existential dread. I’d like to play this part again – partly because I know what this feels like. This – this moment – this sense of “Oh hell – even the smallest little thing is a suggestion of impending doom.” In the Queen’s case, she’s not wrong. Shit is about to get REALLY bad. So one can experience her saying it as a particular kind of dramatic foreshadowing – a sense of, “Ha, ha. We’re at a tragedy. This woman just voiced what we all know is going to happen.” It might even make an audience feel superior – or above the fray.
But to Gertrude – this sense of foreboding has to be folded into not knowing the end. She feels like stuff is about to go horribly wrong but it probably feels silly to her. This bit about it being a “toy” suggests that she’s trying to dismiss her feeling of dread. I would be curious to sit inside this moment again, to tap into the anxiety I too have felt. In my case, the impending doom was just in my mind and I came through the other side. This will not be so for Gertrude.
I have an inner Beserker. She’s ready to set fire to villages, lay waste to bridges and shout her way through a crowd. When I experience injustice – or have been subject to bullying of some kind or any wrong doing – she starts banging on the door of my day. She wants to come in and start knocking heads.
I hear her in there now, warming up her shouting voice, striking matches to make sure they will light and exercising her axe swinging arms. I’ve been keeping a lid on her but at some point, she may just burst through the door.
At the moment, I’m re-evaluating everything, trying to figure out how to approach organizing my life in new circumstances. I find that age has made me lose my nerve a little bit. I’m more risk averse than I used to be. I feel like I’m controlling for the inevitable failure at the end – as if failure is inevitable.
This was not always the case with me. I used to be convinced that success was inevitable – that any setback was merely a bump in the road. I was foot on the gas on the road to my dreams at all times. No stopping. I think now, in my process of figuring out how to proceed, I need to consult with my younger self and see what she would like, what she would have now.
I don’t much long to be Queen. But this little thing definitely seems like a perk of queening. There are so many people I’d like to declare that I will not speak with. And to have someone to stand at a door and say, “No. She won’t speak with you.”
Oh my god. I want a person like that at my disposal. I mean. I love people.
But I screen my calls. I don’t like to engage with people I don’t want to engage with.
I might be happy to be a queen just so I could decide who I didn’t have to speak to.
A note I read on this scene suggested that this bit about Hamlet weeping over Polonius’ body was the first time we actually see the melancholy Dane being actually sad. I thought this was curious because we don’t actually see this and it seemed obvious to me that Gertrude is lying about Hamlet weeping in order to soften the possible consequences of the murder.
But what feels obvious to me may not in fact be the case. If it were so – when would this weeping happen? As he’s dragging the body out of Gertrude’s closet? Seems like an entirely different state than that hyped up manic place we previously saw Hamlet in. It’s interesting. How would one interpolate weeping into that scene in order to make Gertrude honest?