Where is my father?

I’m trying to imagine a context where asking this question this way would make sense. Like – in my case, I’m lucky in that my father is alive. The answer to where he is could be: at home, at the library, at work, downtown, etc.
But if I were to ask where my Grandfather is…
No matter which grandfather I was asking about, the answer would be the same: Arlington National Cemetery – because they are both interred there. But that’s just where their ashes are. Where is my grandfather? Gone. In heaven, if you believe in that sort of thing.

But. It’s a rough way to ask this question.
Is Laertes trying to catch Claudius out? Or hoping to hear him say “At supper. He’s chatting with some ambassador right now”
Or is he trying to ask where his father’s body is but he just can’t do it yet?


That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard, Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow Of my true mother.

That is a whole lot of sex talk for a revenge moment! I mean he’s really diving deep into this bastard idea. Was it necessary to call his mother a harlot to get his point across? I mean, I get it that he’s saying that if he were calm, he’d be a bastard, not doing his due revengeful diligence…but…he goes deep with this idea.

I’m curious too about where this HERE is…is he referring to an image of his mother? Or is he indicating his own brow, seemingly like the brow of his mother? Here….I mean – where is his mother? There’s no other mention of her…one assumes she is dead. But…what if she’s not? What is she’s so subdued, so chaste, so meek, that she hangs around all the scenes with her children, saying nothing? It would make Ophelia seem very bold and rebellious by comparison. Like – if Laertes dragged his mother into this room to show off her chaste brow? I mean – our Ophelia would have a lot of reasons to go crazy. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Laertes is ACTUALLY doing here. But that HERE is interesting. And in an experimental production, I might just try out what it would be like to have a silent Mrs. Polonius onstage.

O thou vile king, Give me my father!

What is Laertes expecting? That Claudius has Polonius’ body right there with him? That he could just reach behind him and pull out the evidence? Presumably, Laertes already knows that his father is dead or he wouldn’t be there with a rabble of over-throwing rebels. And he presumably also knows that Claudius has had Polonius buried in a hurry. Because that’s why he finds him vile. He presumably knows that Hamlet killed Polonius – but he’s mad at Claudius, not Hamlet. It’s a funny choice. It’s a bit – like, Laertes isn’t wrong. Claudius is a vile king. He’s a murdering political monster. But Laertes doesn’t know that, presumably. Or has he been suspicious? Did he wonder, the second this all went down, if there might be some funny business? Is this what the hurry to get to France is all about? Because if he stayed, he’d start asking questions? Let his suspicions fester or go on back to Paris and stop worrying about it.
He’s a funny one that Laertes.

Keep the door.

I know he means guard the door – but it would be funny if he meant to keep the door as a tip. Like – they broke the doors open – and now presumably one of them is loose. One of the rabble could literally keep the door. He could carry it home to his family, “Look, what I got from our future King, Laertes!”
“Oooh – a door. Nice. What shall we do with it?”

I thank you:

Laertes, man of the people.
Laertes, the man with the power to get a horde of people to break down the king’s doors – a thing that very likely could get them killed or jailed.
Laertes, able to wrangle a whole royal support team in no time flat.
Laertes, a man with his father’s political savvy and his own charm and brute strength.
Laertes, thanks his rioters. It is a sign of his skill, I think. Not every noble would thank the plebs that got him through the door. Coriolanus wouldn’t, for example. Or Timon (once he’d been disillusioned.)
But Laertes has his supporters in the palm of his hand. He can have them both advance and retreat. Getting them to retreat is the harder skill, I’d warrant.

I pray you, give me leave.

My question is – what does Laertes do to convince the angry mob to stop rioting and calm down outside? These words aren’t particularly convincing. It’s no “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” So he must do something that makes them change their minds. Or maybe there’s something in his tone?
What would stop a mob with just one sentence?

Sirs, stand you all without.

It’s too bad Laertes doesn’t survive this play because I think he might make a pretty good king. He has a kind of Henry V quality – a (possibly) misspent youth – a righteous cause, strength and leadership. It makes incredibly good sense to send his door breaking supporters away. It shows some savvy leadership. He got those guys to break him in – but to keep them around would be a step too far. They’re hot from door breaking. All they want to do is break heads. You won’t be able to get anything done with that energy around.

Where is this king?

The production of Hamlet that I was in in 1995 is firmly imprinted on my psyche. It was at a potent moment in my history and one of my first jobs. Some lines have, in the subsequent years, lost their immediate association with that show. I have seen enough productions, taught it in enough classrooms, heard enough recitations, to have shaken off the intonations or movements of those actors I worked with over 20 years ago.
There are certain lines that instantly call to mind that production and those actors. This is one of them. I see Tim bursting onto stage – his large frame even larger – arms wide – full of fury. This line is like the heart of Tim’s Laertes. Which will always be my first Laertes, my origin Laertes, the baseline Laertes.

It’s interesting to think of characters with trigger lines – lines that sum up the whole of them …a sort of microcosm of character. “Where is this king?” was the seed of that primal Laertes.


This morning I had breakfast
While looking at the sea –
Everything was easy
Everyone was gracious and kind.
This afternoon, I watched a bus driver yell at a tourist
Who’d pushed the wrong button on the bus.
At the conclusion of the exchange, the bus driver walked away saying,
“You try having that beeping in your ears every day, all day.”
The tourist said, “You could try to be nice.”