But not by him.

This may be Queen Gertrude’s most baffling line in the whole play. Why does she say this? Because by saying this, by defending Claudius, she’s shifting the blame from Claudius to her son. Why would she implicate her own son that way? Is it because he’s safely far away and any fury that Laertes has couldn’t touch him there? Whereas, this moment is full of threat – a current palpable threat.

I guess I’ve answered my own question – and when I played this part, I didn’t find this line hard to say. It just felt instinctive – like – protect the man in front of you. That’s it. And then maybe later, realize what you’ve said and how it may be a threat to your son.

It’s funny that what is hard to understand intellectually isn’t really that hard to understand with the body. The body responds quickly without thinking about long term effects of what one might say.


Calmly, good Laertes.

Our Gertrude is quite a woman. I would like to have seen her as the actual ruler of Denmark, instead of just the spouse. I mean – she does not have to attempt to calm Laertes down. She could scream and panic. She could throw up her hands and call for help. But no. She steps in, right from the start…tries to defuse the situation. And given that Claudius has to ask her twice to let him go, she also physically gets in there.

Now – why she’s defending Claudius so resolutely when she presumably has worked out a little of what Hamlet’s been talking about is a little bit of a mystery.
I think it’s likely that Gertrude has a strong sense of self-preservation and realizes that Claudius is the best horse to back in her current predicament. I mean, to her knowledge, Hamlet is gone. He’s been sent to England. She’s left with a (possibly, as far as she’s concerned) king-murdering husband. How to survive in the circumstances is to stick with what she knows. And it would appear that Claudius is pretty good to her – if not good for the country. Sure, he’s murdered her first husband but that’s in the past. How would she fare with a King Laertes? Probably not well. He’d probably have her executed.

O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!

Why is she highlighting the nationality of the dogs?
I mean what if I said, “Hey you lying American dogs?”
Oh. I get it now.
It’s not a way to call them Danish, to remind them of their nationality – it’s more that Danish is a connecting word – it’s a way to call them false dogs with better rhythm. The nationality is almost like the unstressed part of iambic pentameter – except with words. You can’t hit False, Danish and Dogs equally. One needs a softer stress. And that is clearly Danish. If you want to really spit fire, you have to hit “Dogs” and “False” is second. “Danish” is the breath almost.

How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!

So many questions about where Gertrude’s loyalties here. I mean – is she truly upset about the rabble supporting Laertes against her murderer husband? Does she forget for a moment? Think that her husband is entirely innocent? Is she trying to deflect suspicion from herself? Demonstrate loyalty to a man she’s not so sure about?
Is there a part of her that wonders where this rabble was when her son ought to have been king? Her son, beloved by the people, who ought to have been king? There’s a world of complexity here.
I’m pretty sure when I played this part, I had no sense of any of that. I just operated on instinct – and probably the ACTUAL love I felt for the guy playing Claudius. I just slipped into defending a man I loved. Simple. If I were to do it again, I’d have a lot more options to explore.

Alack, what noise is this?

The café I’m writing in is playing the greatest hits of Michael Jackson today. I feel like it’s not unusual to hear Michael Jackson in public spaces but this is striking my ear and my body quite happily today. I figure a) the music is incredibly infectious and b) I’m in a particularly receptive state. It makes me wonder if perhaps I let go of something somewhere this weekend that is allowing me to receive “Bad” with a similar joy as it brought me when it came out.
I feel like when I’m fighting with myself, I could tune out, “The Way You Make Me Feel” or “Thriller” to hear them as an aural landscape instead of the tunes that make me need to move my body at least a little bit, even as I write.

Similarly, I think if they suddenly switched up the playlist here to something I did not enjoy…I might be less able to tune that out as well. I’d be saying this line of Gertrude’s. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Alas, look here, my lord.

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.

Nay, but Ophelia –

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.

Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?

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.

How now, Ophelia!

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.

So full of artless jealousy is guilt, It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.

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.