‘A weeps for what is done.

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?


O’er whom his very madness, like some ore Among a mineral of metals base, Shows itself pure.

This is such an odd metaphor. The madness is now shining out of Hamlet like gold in a pile of junk metal? Extended, it would seem to imply that Hamlet is the junk metal and the madness is the gold? I think the junk is REALLY meant to be all the rumors flying around his madness – but it’s a little bit clunky. The oddness of this metaphor seems to me to reflect how confused Gertrude is at this point

To draw apart the body he hath killed;

This sounds so animal somehow – like Hamlet is a lion dragging his kill to his lair. There’s something about calling Polonius “the body” and the action of “drawing apart” that has that effect. I know drawing apart means removing but it SOUNDS like a combination of drawing and quartering and ripping apart. It isn’t delicate language.

Maybe this is why the Queens adds the lie about Hamlet weeping over his deed – because she has gone too far in describing his kill.

In his lawless fit, Behind the arras hearing something stir, Whips out his rapier, cries “A rat, a rat!” And in this brainish apprehension kills The unseen good old man.

She’s leaning hard on the insanity defense.
Sure, he killed Polonius. Yes. But he’s crazy.
You see, he was in a lawless fit
In a brainish apprehension.
He was crazy.
(subtext: Please don’t prosecute my son. He’s mad. He’s insane. It’s not his fault.)

I mean – it’s a funny moment in this play.
Hamlet isn’t mad, as far as we know.
But this is an act for which we’d prefer him to be mad. We’d like to think a rational sane Hamlet would not murder an old man in cold blood. So – it becomes a question of whether we’d rather believe he’s crazy or murderous.

Mad as the sea and wind when both contend Which is mightier.

What a vivid visceral madness this is!
Is this how Gertrude perceived Hamlet in the previous scene? Did she see turmoil in him like this? A frothy roiling fight?
Or is this an exaggeration for Claudius’ benefit?
Hamlet has told her to tell Claudius he is mad – which would imply that he thinks she thinks he is not so. But there is nothing in his behavior in that scene that would indicate non-madness from her perspective.

Here’s what she saw:
• her son suddenly whipping out his blade and run it through a curtain into Polonius
• her son seeing someone who wasn’t there – a ghost, he says, the ghost of his father. She sees no indication of a ghost.
• Her son ranting and raving, being inappropriately personal about her sex life and talking non-stop in a kind of mania.

I don’t think she’s lying when she says he’s mad. It’s just a matter of degree. Is he sea storm mad or pebble in a lake mad?

Ah, mine own lord, what have I seen tonight!

There’s a warmth to this line, somehow. “Mine own lord” feels heartfelt or personal in a way. Is this a last ditch attempt to re-connect with Claudius before choosing how to proceed? Her allegiance isn’t entirely clear – but it’s always felt to me that she wants Claudius to comfort her. He doesn’t. But she’s lost so much here- her son’s lost to her in many ways and she’s (sort of) promised to distance herself from Claudius. Polonius is dead. Who does she have? The only other woman in the play will shortly die as well. So… Gertie’s on her own. Of course she’d want comfort wherever she can find it.

Bestow this place on us a little while.

In Rebecca Sonit’s essay, “Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force” she mentioned a feminist art exhibit from the 70s called “Your 5000 years are up.”
It makes me think of the conversation that Jill Soloway has started about maybe just making women’s movies for a little while – to just get the female gaze for a bit. Men had 5000 years in charge and the entire history of film so far – let’s switch it up – get just women’s voices for a bit. Like when Ruth Bader Ginsberg said we’d have actual equality on the Supreme Court when ALL of the justices were women.
There is something very appealing about all of these visions of the world –a world where we might rule for a bit – where the next 5000 years would be ours. We tried asking for equality. We were nice about it. We said we’d share. But….

‘Tis so concluded on.

The board of my college voted to dismantle their study abroad program in Florence, despite a torrent of protest from alumni, despite student dissent, despite faculty support, despite 29 years of success and international commendation.

We realized that the decision had actually been made long before and that the vote was simply a formality. It had been concluded before it even began. That’s how Boards do their dirty work.

Alack, I had forgot.

I’m curious about this “Alack.”
Is she distraught because Hamlet’s being sent away?
If so – why was she not distraught about it before?
Is there a way his leaving suddenly feels like abandonment – despite the fact that he’s just been pretty horrible to her? Has he convinced her so thoroughly of Claudius’ ills that she doesn’t want to be left alone?
And why is Hamlet so concerned about her not telling Claudius that he’s only pretending to be mad when he won’t even be around?
His plans for escaping the English ship must already be in place. Which is funny because his escape does involve a chance meeting with pirates. Maybe that meeting is not such an accident. Maybe Hamlet has a pirate friend.
I wouldn’t put it past him.

Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, And breath of life, I have no life to breath What thou hast said to me.

In other words: you’re killin’ me, kid. You’re killin’ me.

This scene is so horrible from Gertrude’s perspective. First, she’s the witness to her son killing a high ranking official before her very eyes. Then over the corpse of that man, her son proceeds to berate her and see a ghost and then berates her some more.
I would play this scene so differently now than I did at 22. I would not let myself forget the dead man in his blood on the floor. I would escalate my emotional state – vibrate it so high it would be hard to stay in it. But it would be worth it. Because I think this scene must be torture for her.