A thing, my lord?

Guildenstern says absolutely nothing this entire scene and he finally chooses to join in with THIS line? Wha?
It doesn’t SOUND like a line with a lot of significance and yet it must have some because not ONLY is it Guildenstern’s only line in the scene, it is the last one that either Rosencrantz or Guildenstern say in the scene (and not incidentally the last line Guildenstern says in the play.)
Whatever Guildenstern is doing here, he’s triggered Hamlet somehow – such that he decides to stop toying with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and just go see Claudius.

Is it a threat? Does it somehow align Guildenstern with the King? Guildenstern has made his allegiance clear in a previous scene – so maybe he’s stepping in to be the King’s muscle here? The line wants more than a casual repetition of what Hamlet said a moment before. What that more is, I don’t know. I think, if I were playing Guildenstern, I’d have to find it.

Most holy and religious fear it is To keep those many many bodies safe That live and feed upon your majesty.

So the king is the host
And his subjects are the parasites?
Is that how it goes?
The king is the cat
And the people are the fleas?
The king is the swimmer
And the people are the leeches?
The king is the ant
And the people are the zombie roaches?
It’s kind of weird analogy, Guildenstern.
Unless he means it in the sense
Of the body of Christ –
That is that all the people
Drink his blood and eat his body, like, spiritually.
Which is really just as weird
When you think about it.

We will ourselves provide.

There’s a double meaning in that.

There is the sense that they will step in and take care of the king’s needs. And there is also the sense that they will provide for themselves. And that they will deliver to themselves what THEY need. All things are true at once.
That is, they will be both self-serving and serve the king, simultaneously. I’m not sure which Guildenstern intends to say. (My money’s on serving the king – but he gives away his true motives simultaneously.)

I have not the skill.

She said, “I’m not a great writer. I’m not Voltaire. I couldn’t write…” and here she quoted a real corker of a line from Voltaire, which I cannot remember.
She wants to be able to write something to incite the masses but finds that she is best able to write academically.
It isn’t self-deprecation, she says. It’s just knowing your skill set.

But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony.

Sometimes it feels like one of the goals of teaching theatre/Shakespeare/performance is a kind of harmony in the classroom. Not literal harmony, of course – and not unison. We’re not after everyone doing the same thing. But harmony – multiple voices working together to create a coherent whole – even if there are dissonant notes or the occasional wrong note.
Some groups take to the work like ducks take to water. I do not have to fight them and explain all the factors. I offer what I offer and they soak it up. Some groups take a while to buy in. They clunk along for a while until it becomes easier – like an old engine taking a while to get started but then they get running just fine to get the job done.
And then, there are the groups whose issues outside the classroom are so great, their brains so noisy with trouble, that it’s always a slog. These cannot I command to any utterance of harmony.

I know no touch of it, my lord.

The café I’m in is full of small clusters of high school students (or possibly community college students who are often hard to distinguish from high schoolers.) One cluster is three boys and two girls. Both clusters seem to be spending the bulk of their time and energy in taunting the girls. There have been multiple jokes about rape – and not just rape in general but specifically about raping those particular girls. It would seem that signing up to hang with these kids means signing up for teaching and taunting in the worst way – either as a giver or a receiver.

I can see now why I avoided both crowds and boys as a young person. There’s no escaping the misogyny – the only way to belong is to find these sorts of shenanigans amusing. And not only do I not find them amusing now, I did not find them amusing then. I couldn’t even pretend to laugh at stuff like this – I have no idea where one even finds the will to stay in such a crowd.

Believe me, I cannot.

I can do a great many things. Sometimes it feels a little silly. Last night at my Shakespeare workshop for seniors, one of my students said, “Do you sing? You sing right?” Fact is, I do, yes.
“Did you ever sing with a group? Did you ever think of doing this?”
As a matter of fact, I did. Yes. I used to have a band.
“What did you play? Did you play something?”
Yes, actually. Guitar.
It felt like she was searching for something to suggest for me to do – but I had in fact, already done them.
I can perform. I can direct. I can write. I can teach. I can sing. I can dance. I can play guitar. I can make up songs. I can run a non-profit. I can manage our CMS website. I can quilt. I can bind a book. I can draw a little, paint a little. I could probably even make a print with a little refresher. I can make stuff out of tin. I can practice Feldenkrais. I can puppeteer. I can clown. I can blog. I can edit. The list is longer than I can possibly remember.
But it’s always the things that I cannot do that shock people. “You can’t ride a bike?” They’ll marvel. “I don’t believe it.”

My lord, I cannot.

One of the things actor training will embed in you is the willingness to give all things a try. Even if an actor had never seen a pipe before, he would likely say, “I’ve never played one before, but I’ll give it a shot!”
We are vigorously trained to say yes.
I remember telling a friend a story about a time this got me into trouble. I just felt like I had to give something a big old committed try and ended up with a bit of metaphorical egg on my face. When I explained this story to my friend with the actor’s “yes” included, she laughed and laughed about the way I’d responded like an actor to a non-acting situation. What’s funny is that I remember my friend’s laughter but can no longer recall the situation that triggered it. It almost feels like whatever I did, I did for a much delayed laugh. And the actor in me won anyway – even though whatever I did at first was kind of embarrassing.

O my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.

Huh, Guildenstern? Huh?
Is this supposed to be an apology? An explanation?
Bold duty – sure – you’re saying, “Hey man, I’m just doing my job. I’m sorry if I’m doing it with a little too much force. But it’s my job, man. “
Makes a LITTLE bit of sense –
But mannerly love? As the “then” of this “If”?
I do not well understand it either.
Is it like: “If I were to let go and not be so zealous in doing my duty, my love would send me to all kinds of inappropriate places. My love would just spill out all over the place.”
I mean – it’s not really an answer to Hamlet’s question, is it?

If not, your pardon and my return shall be the end of my business.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name’s Mr. Guildenstern and I’ll be your substitute teacher today. I hope that you’ll give me the respect and good behavior that you usually give to your teacher, Mr. Pahlinus.

Oh, excuse me, yes, Mr. Polonius. Now – I’ve got several worksheets to hand out to the class – I don’t expect to have any trouble but if there is, I have the authority to send any of you to the office that give me reason. Okay? Are we going to be okay?

Now see. That’s the kind of thing that is not a good idea. I don’t like to see that sort of thing. Do you think that’s the way to behave? No, no, I’m not going to send you to the office for that. Of course, you didn’t mean it, I understand. Just. . .don’t do it again – okay?

Now if everybody could just quietly fill in your worksheets while I take the attendance then we can all have a peaceful class. Yes? It’s GUILD-en-stern. Mr. GUILD-en-stern. That’s right. Like a guild. Do you know what a guild is? No, no, of course. No. Just fill in your worksheets, alright everybody? Settle down. Settle down. It’s time to settle down.