The café I’m sitting in is playing Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake” – a band and a song that I loved in my tween years. Even then, I understood that there was some sort of double entendre going on but it was obscured enough that it didn’t make me uncomfortable. Instead, I found it intriguing.
I think I got that the snake was probably a metaphor for a penis but it didn’t HAVE to be and that made all the difference.
There were references to “your body” and some singing that was full of yearning – so I understood there was some potential in this song. In retrospect, I think that was a huge part of the appeal of this band for me. There was the promise of sex with a mythical veil of over it – which made it both strange and interestingly dangerous.
Even listening to this song now – I’m not exactly sure what they’re talking about. It’s not quite double entendre. It’s like suggestive without being a direct metaphor.
All that to say this this line is definitely NOT meant to be a double entendre. But it’s fun to read it that way anyway.
This is like my life. I get still better, and worse. I’m more skilled, more able, more confident, more stable.
But worse, less money, less hope, less blind faith, more cavities, more struggles or are there less and I just feel them more strongly now?
Still better, and worse.
Keen, like, keen to dally as those puppets do?
Keen, like, smart, like quick, like, sharp like a knife?
Keen, like, eager and enthusiastic about the theatre?
Keen would seem to have started with knives – with sharpness – and metaphorically went to sharpness of sight. (Let not my keen eye see not the wound it makes…)
And keen just grew and expanded as a word and a concept. And yet now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard keen used to describe a blade, except in Shakespeare and other texts from centuries past.
Language winds around like a country road. It is not sharp or direct like a knife. Language development isn’t keen, is it?
Hopefully a chorus would be better. Usually a chorus will at least provide consistent information. They’re not always big explainers – sometimes they’re just opinion givers – but they are, at least, usually accurate. They’re good at being clear about Dukes vs Kings and what not.
Though, I would like to see a chorus as confused as an actual crowd. I imagine they’d be a lot like Hamlet. One might call the main character a duke, another the king. One could give him an Italian name, another Viennese. It could be like polling witnesses – the way they all see something similar but describe it very differently. The killer could have worn a yellow, blue, green or brown cap. Depending on which witness, which member of the chorus you ask.
If the chorus were like that, Hamlet is as good as they are.
Polonius also uses the word brief in this play.
This makes me think about the way that language travels – through families and other familiars. Is it a familial verbal motif to use brief? Or do many other characters use “briefs” and I’m just not thinking of them at the moment?
I read an article about favorite words and phrases – how they travel like a virus from person to person – how words we use habitually migrate to others who either identify them as ours and pick them up or identify them as ours and avoid them. A vocabulary moves according to one’s company. Ophelia would seem to be primarily in her father’s company and would therefore take on some of his word preferences. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.
We did a staged reading with a text that we needed to return pristine if we planned on not spending dollars.
Normally, I’d mark a text up. Note some accents, some places to breathe, highlight my lines, etc – but money’s tight and I don’t need a tiny folio version of this particular play. So I didn’t. Mark it.
And I lost my place many times. My eyes glazed over as soon as performance energy took me over. I could have used all the help I could have gotten.
So next time, dollars aside, I’ll mark the play.
And suddenly I understand where we get the word naughty.
Naught being nothing certainly can quickly lead to being naughty.
We only use naughty with children and with dirty stuff these days. It’s a funny word. It has a sort of odd affection embedded in it.
Children who are naughty are also love-able
And when someone tells a naughty joke it is also a little bit mischievously charming. Like, a little bit more Benny Hill than Andrew Dice Clay.
And naught? Hardly ever hear it, except in Shakespeare, anymore.
Maybe this is why I find it hard to like Ophelia. Generally, people who want their art spelled out for them make me a little crazy. While looking at a painting, watching a modern dance, listening to a concert, they cannot rest until they know what it means. They’re a bit like those people who can’t wait for the film to answer its own questions. “But who killed him?” They’ll ask in a murder mystery. We don’t know. That’s why we are continuing to watch this murder mystery.
I remember having some trouble enjoying modern dance at first. Because I was trying to make meaning where there wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t have the context. I wanted it to be a story. Sometimes I think having some comfort with art that does not explicitly mean things is a sign of maturity.
Answering your own question, are you, Ophelia?
Ask a madman a question, get a mad answer, I guess. But – this is where I’m not entirely sure why Ophelia asks for meaning of the show – since she’s clear on what it was. She’s got it worked out pretty well, so her question might reference some other. “This” entirely – an action perhaps, a gesture.
She’s like, “No, Hamlet – it’s not mischief. It’s a plot summary. It’s a dumb show. We all know it’s not miching mallecho.”
Except of course it is mischief – but no one knows that but Hamlet and Horatio.
Even Claudius doesn’t seem to figure out the mischief bit. He just gets hit with it – straight into his conscience, straight into his guilt ridden guts.
The structure of the exercise (I invented for myself) is that I write in response to the lines, that I skip the stage directions and just use the dialogue. That structure was challenged by this particular chunk of text – these particular stage directions that come before this line. I toyed with changing my rules simply to accommodate them. They aren’t just simple stage directions. They are, in effect, a whole mini play. I’ve seen entire evenings of theatre that are less scripted, less of a show than this.
I’ve sometimes taught this chunk of stage directions as an introduction to the play. It is not insignificant – the passionate action, the protestation. . . this is not in the realm of “They fight” or “Exeunt.” There’s a lot here.
But in the end, I’m sticking with my structure. . . because artistic ritual and structure are what keep me going and if I go around breaking my own rules, I’m not sure what I will live by.
But to Ophelia – what is she responding to? This little dumb show is pretty clear. It’s not like they’re watching some avant guarde piece and the meaning is obscured somehow. Or maybe it is performed as an avant guarde dumbshow – maybe somehow the story, so clearly set down here, is obscured by the performance. I have seen that happen many times before.