This line is so much more romantic than any of the ones Hamlet gives to Ophelia. Not anything from his letter that we hear read. Not any of his flirty lines while watching the play.
There is a sense that, until she’s dead, Hamlet demonstrates no real love for her. He resents her, teases her, condescends to her, manipulates her and insults her.
But Horatio, he loves without hesitation. The real romance in this play is between Horatio and Hamlet.
When you read this, it will be obvious what number of Farewell this is. It will appear in the URL for this blog post. The count will happen automatically when I post this. But I’m not writing this in the blog software. I’m not even writing it on a computer. So I can only guess what number of farewell this is in the play. I suspect that it is #8. Not including all the farewells that are more than the single word. It’s just funny how something that will be so obvious when I post this is such a mystery as I write it.
Well – looks like I guessed entirely accurately!
He does, too. He hath MUCH to tell Horatio about those guys.
Now, when he does tell it – he actually doesn’t say a LOT – at least compared to how much Hamlet can talk. But what he does say is pretty potent.
So “much” can be quantitative or qualitative!
I have a LOT of questions about this pirate attack. I mean – the pirates boarded the ship that was going from Denmark to England. Hamlet hopped on board the pirate ship while the pirates were fighting with the Danes. Now – why would the pirates get on board the Danish ship, fight everyone on it and then leave the Danes to go on their merry way to England?
Like, if they got control of the ship to get on it, wouldn’t they take possession of it? Or kill some folks on board? I suppose they could have just taken all the goods but the most likely scenario seems to me to be that this entire pirate attack was a set up. How else would Hamlet know that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are holding their course to England? If he’s hiding out on a pirate ship – how would he know what the other ship is doing? We don’t get to see any of these pirates – but I would very much like to, I would watch a play about Hamlet and The Pirates.
There is a fun amount of subterfuge in this backing and forthing.
First, these sailors aren’t so sure this is Horatio. But even so, they are charged with a) bringing Horatio a letter from Hamlet and b) bringing Horatio to Hamlet – after this negotiation with the letter. It’s like. Why did he need the letter? Couldn’t the sailors have said: “Horatio, Hamlet asked us to bring you to him. Come with us.”
But no. We have to have this letter in between – and it serves to create an atmosphere of espionage. It helps turn a revenge drama into a Spy Thriller.
Thinking of words as light, like actually light – without weight – is fascinating – especially when words can feel so heavy. Receiving bad news is viscerally weighted. Words that wound feel like a rock tied around an ankle. They will take you right to the bottom of a hole – the kind that make you feel like you are drowning.
But, of course, words are not actually heavy.
They are air.
They are ephemeral.
They pass as one breath to the next.
Words on a page are only as heavy as the paper and ink – which is hardly any weight at all.
The words here make a somewhat sensual journey, traveling from Hamlet’s lips to Horatio’s ear. There, the words reverberate so strongly that they travel from Horatio’s ear to his mouth, which becomes mute. Or maybe sound gets swallowed at his throat or maybe it’s Horatio’s tongue that is so moved it has to cease moving.
I guess Hamlet wants Horatio to hurry! Of course he’s assuming that Horatio would be in a hurry to get away from death. Would Hamlet himself want to flee death with speed at other points in the play? Well, yeah, actually, he would. For all the melancholy Dane talk, Hamlet spends most of his time avoiding death.
But there are characters who would not be inclined to hurry away from death. We don’t know a lot about Horatio – but I suppose we can assume, the way Hamlet does, that Horatio would like to avoid death, like most of us.
I wish this story was real so that there would be physical evidence, so that these letters might be discovered somewhere and their contents revealed. Then we’d know why it was letters not a letter.
Did the pirates get their good turn? Did they ask for it in time? Was it a favor in the future or something Hamlet could do for them as soon as they set him back on Denmark’s shores?
I picture them turning up in the final scene – all ready to capitalize on their favor from the prince. They’re all pirated up with peglegs and parrots and kerchiefs and swords. They’ve made their way from the dock to the castle – passed the players on their way out. And then they get to the castle and find that their favor is dead on the ground.
The Tragedy of Hamlet, from the pirates perspective.
A Yo Ho Ho Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.