How is it with you, lady?

This is a little like how my friends talk to one another. I wonder when this started happening. When did we start calling one another lady?
It is entirely affectionate and yet somehow also ironic, in the sense that not one of us could be considered a lady in any of the traditional sense of the word. I mean, sure, we’re all ladies in that we are all women – but most of us aren’t particularly lady-like. Even the very femme-y ones who wear a lot of lipstick.

I wonder if previous generations had more to contend with in terms of their associations with being a lady. In fact, I’m fairly certain they did. But us? We grew up with Free to Be You and Me and that Ladies First story about the “real little lady” who always insists on Ladies First and then gets eaten by a tiger.

So…maybe it’s a little like when gay men call one another “Girl” – it’s a thing that might once have been loaded with one thing, then gets loaded with another.

O, say!

Or don’t say. Sometimes I think we may overdo our mandate for self expression. My client today overwhelmed me with an abundance of oversharing. Yesterday, we saw two performances that were clearly devised to express something very personal – but both were so sad, so close to the bone, so awkward and uncomfortable that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could experience them as empowering. Those things didn’t need to be said. I didn’t need to hear them. I rather wish I hadn’t.

Do you not come your tardy son to chide, That lapsed in time and passion, let’s go by Th’important acting of your dread command?

It’s remarkable how so much criticism of this play can be summed up in this line. It’s as if the critics are all the ghost, they’re all Hamlet’s father, or who Hamlet thinks his father is, and they all think the principal issue of this play is Hamlet’s delay.
Why, if he’d just gone right in to the court and killed Claudius right away, that would be the right thing: If he’d just listened to his father. If he’d just been a more obedient son.
This tells us a lot more about the critics and their relationships with their fathers and sons than it does about Hamlet.

What would your gracious figure?

Hamlet’s response to his father’s ghost’s return is complicated. His first reaction is fear. He asks the angels for protection from his fate. He does exactly the same when he first sees the ghost. Pure, primal fear, it would seem.
And then – he switches, if not reactions then tactics. He would seem to become distant and courtly with his father’s ghost. The first time he speaks to the ghost, he uses informal language. He thees and thous him. But here, he swings into you – and not just you – but “your gracious figure.” It has distancing effect – Like, the ghost isn’t his father anymore but a representation of him.
Which – maybe so – given that he’s a ghost. But it’s more like a painting of the ghost or his father. The figure of his father and not his father himself.
And as this scene continues, he continues to speak formally to the ghost (and also to his mother.) He has made a switch at some point in the middle of this play. Is it because he thought of the ghost as more of a thing at first and now that he’s convinced of his veracity, he switches to a more respectful you? He speaks to his mother with “You” – is that his parental language? Or is there something about being with his mother that means he uses different language with his father?
There’s a lot to explore in just comparing Hamlet with the ghost in Act 1 versus Hamlet with the ghost in Act 3.

Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings, you heavenly guards!

There was a period wherein I really believed in Angels. I had an angel book that kicked it off, I think. I purchased it for next to nothing at a used book shop. I had angel cards, too.
I’ve never been religious – didn’t believe in God, even while believing, with tears and laughter, in angels.
Angels were appealing in a way that God was not. They had personalities, specialties. I welcomed them with meditations and automatic writing. One of them got me through a break-up and an up-ending of my life.
I feel pretty clear now that that angel was my own mind, my own imagination, giving me the good advice I needed. The fact that I found a roundabout way to hear it is of no consequence now. It was an angel then. It helped me. When it enfolded me in its imaginary wings, it provided comfort.
There is something assuring about a flock of angels watching over you, ready to defend against difficulties of all kinds. The fantasy of someone flying in from above to save you is one of the best there is. In a future dark moment, I might imagine more angels, even if I don’t believe in them.

A king of shreds and patches –

My boyfriend was laughing with abandon in the other room. I had to go in and see what had caused him to laugh so much. (He’s not quick to laugh.)

I found him watching Shredding videos. I had never seen nor heard of these before but they are a thing. Shreds are the video of great musical acts with hilariously bad audio that matches the video. Instead of Robert Plant singing or keening, you get him sounding like an alien muppet. Instead of John Oates’ dulcet tones accompanying a soul Daryl Hall – you get a Simpson-esque Harry Shearer-ish Hodor accompanying a breathing high school voice – and the predominant sound of Daryl Hall hitting his mic stand. In a shred, Keith Jarrett plays plinky plunky piano sounds instead of complex jazz. Shreds are very silly. And particularly funny to musicians.

So I picture Claudius as a King of Shreds. Either a guy who sits in a basement creating those videos – or singing something in a band himself, getting dozens of shreds on his video because he is so fun to re-record and make fun of.

A murderer and a villain, A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe Of your precedent lord, a vice of kings, A cutpurse of the empire and the rule, That from a shelf the precious diadem stole And put it in his pocket –

This first part is obviously true. Claudius is a murderer and a villain.
Which is interesting because this is the first time Hamlet’s let on to his mother about the murdery part – which really is enough of a problem. Probably if he just calmly said, “I am now certain beyond a reasonable doubt that Claudius murdered my Dad. The ghost came and told me so and Claudius’ reaction confirmed it. Did you know? Are you guilty, too? The ghost says not. But…”

However – he just skims right over this murdery business and goes on to a really interesting diatribe about how shitty a king Claudius is. This is interesting to me – because there are some ways that Claudius is actually not so bad. He’s a good politician. He speaks the lingo anyway – and he does avert a war with Norway at the top of the play.

But Hamlet thinks he’s a king of vice. His drinking, he’s previously let us know, is a problem.

At first I thought Hamlet was saying that Claudius was stealing money from the country’s coffers – that he was embezzling somehow – but now I see “a cutpurse of the empire and the rule” as more of a thief of the kingship. He stole the COUNTRY by usurping the throne. He doesn’t mention that Claudius has stolen the throne as much for him as his father. He’s weirdly mum about the succession. Other characters, in other plays, who were meant to be king and lost it, will have a lot to say on the subject – Hamlet does not. I wonder what that’s about.

This is a good fun rant, though.

Nay, but to live In the rank sweat of an enseaméd bed, Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty –

Hamlet. You’re saying this stuff to your mother. I mean – I realize her sex life grosses you out. I think parental sex lives are supposed to gross us out – but we don’t usually TALK about them.
And this is such a curiously lurid description of sex. It’s supposed to be nasty – we’ve got stuff like “rank sweat,” “enseaméd bed,” “stewed in corruption” over a “nasty sty” but we also have “honeying” and “making love” in the same sentence.

It’s not ENTIRELY disgusting. And there’s something about it that just could be just a little bit hot. I mean – sweaty sex ain’t all bad, man. Sure, if it’s rank, that’s gross. But their description involves both the making love and the sweat, which really might be ideal for a lot of people.

I don’t think Hamlet’s in love with his mom. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think, he’s inappropriate with her in areas like this. Maybe he just doesn’t have good boundaries.

Proclaim no shame When the compulsive ardour gives the charge, Since frost itself as actively doth burn, And reason panders will.

Oh yeah. Compulsive order, giving the charge. Mmm-hmmm.
I mean, what’s funny about this is that it’s such a masculine way to think about lust. I mean- I think, in a man, lust can feel like a compulsion which charges forth. It’s sort of the nature of an erection.
But for women, who are Hamlet’s concern here, I can’t imagine any woman describing her desire this way. It’s more a heat that distracts than a compulsion that charges. It’s more like stepping into a warm pool. You want to swim, of course. Of course you want to swim. The water is warm and all you can think about is how warm the water is and how nice it would be to just sink into it. But it’s not a charge – unless we’re thinking of a charge in the electrical sense – in which case – okay – I can go with that. But even in the electrical sense – it’s not putting your finger in a light socket charge, it’s a bulb on a dimmer – which you can turn up quickly, sure – but you can also turn up slowly.

Rebellious hell, If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones, To flaming youth let virtue be as wax And melt in her own fire.

Here’s hell. Rebellious hell. No less.
It can create a mutiny, an upheaval, a revolution in an older woman’s bones, And if this is possible, if this is so – then youth, in flames already, might as well dissolve all virtue in its hot desire. Go ahead young people, screw your brains out – no holds barred – since an old lady is getting hot with lust, you might as well let it all out – Go nuts. No controls on anyone anymore, kids. Go to it.