The devil take thy soul!

Until the current administration took over the government in my country, I would have said I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I mean – I don’t really believe in the devil so…it’d be sort of toothless – but even so – now, there are quite a few people I could see shouting this at now.

There’s the obvious doofuses at the top – but also, of course, Sessions and Miller and Mnuchin and Pruitt, especially. He’s who I’m really thinking of. And because he’s an evangelical Christian, such a curse might land very nicely on him.

A couple years later, Sessions and Pruitt are gone. Still stuck with Miller and Mnuchin, though. Booo.

Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead, Till of this flat a mountain you have made, To o’ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head Of blue Olympus.

This is a funny moment for Greece and Greek geography/mythology to show up. Most other references to such things were part of the Players repertoire – and that was largely from the point of view of the Trojans. We see the blood covered Greek laying waste to the woeful royal family in the player’s speech. But that’s the only other Greek reference I can think of offhand.
This is a Christian Denmark – we are living with Christian symbols and rules here – but Laertes calls to mind a tall mountain in Greece – a mountain built on top of another mountain to get closer to the gods on Olympus.
Maybe Laertes is longing for another paradigm, a way to get closer to Heaven together with his sister.

Hold off the earth awhile, Till I have caught her once more in mine arms.

This just goes to show that Laertes doesn’t have the support network necessary to help him handle his grief. It also suggests that the rituals prior to this burial were not sufficient to Laertes’ needs. He ought to have had an opportunity to hug Ophelia before they put her in the ground – or at least to have spent some time with her body. But it feels clear he has not had such a time – nor has he had anyone to grieve with. He has followers. He has friends, one supposes – but he probably doesn’t have a girlfriend. His father is dead and he didn’t handle that so well either. If anyone ever needed a grief counselor, it’s that guy.

O, treble woe Fall ten times treble on that cursed head, Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense Deprived thee of!

If I could go back in time and ask Shakespeare to write another play, I’d have a few requests – but one of them might be the play of Hamlet but from Laertes’ perspective. I mean – here he is asking for three times the woe to fall thirty times on Hamlet’s head and his perception of Hamlet’s deed is not actually wrong.
Hamlet did do something terrible that made Ophelia go crazy. And he didn’t even seem sorry.

We’re on Hamlet’s side, of course, because we have all of his information and we see things from his point of view and he’s articulate and sensitive and smart. But Laertes has quite a journey too – he’s just on the edges of this story. And it ends with as much tragedy as Hamlet’s story. The Tragedy of Laertes.

I tell thee, churlish priest, A ministering angel shall my sister be, When thou liest howling.

Fuck yeah, Laertes! You tell him!
This is probably why Shakespeare made the priest such a dick so that we’d be on Laertes’ side to read the priest the riot act. And getting Laertes riled up by this churlish priest is useful because it means when Hamlet reveals himself in a minute, in a pretty churlish/dickish way himself, Laertes will be amped up and already furious.
Shakespeare doesn’t need the priest to be a dick for Laertes to mention his sister – he could just as easily say something like “Lay my sister in the earth” but he does need to get Laertes good and furious so he and Hamlet can have a dramatic grapple in a grave.

And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring!

This is (mostly) a very sweet blessing.
Violets springing from one’s body is lovely and poetic.
But I’m hung up on unpolluted.
It’s hard to imagine that this “unpolluted” quality is unrelated to the virginity, maiden thing. Like – if she’d done the dirty deed with Hamlet (which maybe she did – we don’t know) then the violets would be like – nah. We’re good. This lady had sex – so no springing forth here.
Theoretically, the sense of pollution could be any sort of sin – but really, in young women, the only sin anyone really cares about is whether or not they had sex. Much to my frustration and dismay.

Lay her i’ the earth.

There is something about the way Laertes says this that expresses his love for his sister. It has a softness, an affection for both her and the earth. It is a beautiful way to say this.

The priest, who is an asshole who would rather throne stones on her, would say “Throw her in the ground” “Toss her into the grave” “get the body in the dirt.”
But Laertes finds a way to express the moment to bury his sister with care and gentleness.

Must there no more be done.

I just learned that migraines are the number 2 largest disabler of people around the world. 47 million people have migraines and yet research into them is woefully underfunded. Apparently in the US, there is $20 million dedicated to migraine research. And while that seems like a big number to me – it is nothing like the funding for less pervasive diseases that afflict fewer people. I think I remember a $200 million number. You could make a Hollywood Action movie for what we spend on a migraine research.
And the American Disability codes have no code for migraine? Is that true? I mean. Wow. Come on guys. This is ridiculous.

What ceremony else?

This is an interesting repetition. Usually a repetition happens within the line and this one sandwiches a line from Hamlet. But because Laertes doesn’t hear Hamlet – it really is an internal repetition for him. That is, as far as Laertes is concerned, he just says this line twice in a row.
Is he asking different people or asking the priest twice, one more forcefully than the other?

What ceremony else?

Before I saw a military funeral, I don’t think I was particularly inclined toward ceremony. I did not quite see the point of burial rites of graveside services or any of the rituals to mark the passing of a person.
But I get it now. It’s powerful. Ceremony marks the passage clearly and definitely. It is over. The life lived has passed and it has been marked.