Actors will keep going through the most extraordinary circumstances. We’ve got “The Show Must Go On” in our blood and it will continue to pulse no matter what.
Is the Player King onstage still convulsing in his death throes while this drama with Claudius is happening?
I don’t know many performers who’d stop just because of a disturbance in the audience. I’d like to see what’s happening in the stage within the stage in this bit. What do the performers do with this little bubble in their performance before Polonius has to shut it down?
Most performances I’ve seen feature everyone stopping and staring as soon as the King rises – but I’d be curious to see some play go on and give Polonius a reason to stop them.
There is a kite hung up on a powerline here outside the balcony of our apartment at the beach. It has been there for several days now, its shape shifting and changing.
When it first got stuck there, its wings were taut and splayed. It looked like a flying bird, arrested and stilled in midflight. Or a butterfly, perhaps, wings spread wide. It would seem to soar when it caught the wind.Several days later and it hangs limply like a handkerchief held up in the middle. It takes up half the space, with its kite wings folded in on itself. The wind still lifts it but it lifts a limp bat or a dead butterfly and it no longer soars.
Yet it still clings to this powerline – still hangs there tenaciously. It may never fall – just like the plastic bag on a tree back in Queens that has grown with the tree through so many years of so many violent seasons, so much so that that tree and plastic bag would seem to never be parted. So it may be with that kite and that powerline.
This is something my grandfather would say when he saw something that caught his interest. He might say it when someone told a good joke, or even a bad joke – he was fond of jokes.
He might say it as punctuation to your story.
He might say it if he came upon you in a room, or around the bend or on the patio.I imagine he might have said it silently while reading the murder mysteries he loved, when the killer was revealed.
My grandfather was also a great fan of “a-ha!” and could be heard to say it interchangeably with “O ho.”
I was reported, as a small child, to have picked up this vocal tic and said it, too, on similar occasions, for a while – probably until I realized that everyone was laughing at a small girl saying a grandfather’s words.
Hamlet killed you, actually.
It’s an interesting foreshadowing.
Interesting that Polonius says Brutus killed him, when Caesar was killed by a whole group of conspirators.
Are there parallels between Hamlet and Brutus?
They’re both thinkers and deliberators. Both good speechifiers.
They both end up [Spoilers!] dead.
This happens in acting class or in shows. You start to identify with the character. Some will teach you to do it – to think of as I instead of him. Other times it just happens. You start to identify so fully with the character that the things that happen to the character seem to happen to you.
Characteristics of the character seem to be yours.
For months after playing a pregnant girl, I had post-partum depression. I missed my cotton front t-shirt bump baby.
It is a curious way to experience things.
Worlds start to interlock if you’re not careful. On our tour, Gertrude and Claudius did eventually start to collude. Ophelia went mad. Laertes raged. Polonius talked a blue streak. Hamlet spent a lot of time alone.
On the other hand, though, not quite a decade later, I played many characters without taking on their stuff. I think, perhaps, the lines of self are a lot more malleable when we are young, so we’re not as clear what we are acting and who we are.
Polonius was a young man when he played Caesar – so he took his playacted death as personally as a young man does. The death was clearly the biggest event for Caesar and so became so for young Polonius playing him.
I worked with an actor who took a similar pride in having played Julius Caesar. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the title character isn’t anywhere close to the best part. It’s not even a star part, like the kind Orson Welles really enjoyed playing – i.e. the character that everyone talks about throughout the whole piece and so when he comes in at the end, everyone’s been anticipating him for two hours. Caesar shows up at the top, gets killed halfway through and doesn’t do a whole lot of interesting stuff on his journey there.
But my actor friend who played Caesar talked about this role with more pride than any of his larger, more flashy roles. Maybe he relishes the idea of himself as emperor of the empire.
I would cast that actor friend as Polonius, actually. He has a beautiful natural pomposity, combined with a good natured enthusiasm that would make for an endearing yet maddening Polonius.
Is that who Polonius is? I’m not sure. But that’s who his Polonius would be.
Hamlet my lords Polonius and Polonius my lords him right back.
I’d like to see Polonius’ acting. I’m developing a real jones to see collegiate Polonius in his toga saying, “E tu, Brute.”
I imagine it like the flashback scenes in Harry Potter where we see young Potter parents, young Professors, young Villains, before the current moment.
We see the whole college scene – all the people who account Polonius as a good actor – the collegiate audience, the reviews in the college newspaper. And I’m sure someone has noted this already but it just struck me now that both Polonius and Caesar meet their ends with a blade to the vitals. We don’t know which of the many wounds on Caesar is the fatal one but one assumes it to be the most emotional as well, the blade of Brutus.
It is interesting to me that Polonius dies in the same way his theatrical counterpoint did. Does he think of it as he dies? As Polonius says, “O I am slain” does he remember his death as Caesar? Does he indulge it a little?
I’d like to see a version where Polonius returns to his Caesar-ness at that moment. He could even say “E tu, Brute” after he realizes what’s happening. I’d enjoy those meta-theatrical echoes, I think.
Who set the time for this show? Maybe in a world without clocks and watches on every surface – start times are a little more fluid. Especially when a king shows up and says, “I’m ready for the show now.” I imagine that the players couldn’t say, “But we’re still warming up. The clown is only in half his costume. We couldn’t possibly.”
I romanticize the old school player’s life – I love the notion of having all our gear in a cart, traveling and playing up and down the road. But the notion of having to start without time to prepare gives me anxiety. Of all the trappings of modern theatre, I think I’d appreciate having a consistent start time the most.
So this is the plan now? Try and get Gertrude to round him into confessing his dark love feelings or “go to England” (AKA – execution) OR confinement. Where? The Danish dungeons? Claudius’ own private prison? Is there a Tower of Copenhagen like the Tower of London? And is confining someone who’s not really dangerous, just a little socially inappropriate really a good idea? I mean, sure, there are many inappropriate people I’d really rather not see around – but is it okay to confine them, just because they make me uncomfortable? I’m afraid not.
I’m in a café now where a very tiny young Asian woman wearing a histrionic Jesus smock hopped up on a stool and started singing and davening. (Is it still called davening when not done by Jews?) She sat there, rocking back and forth, singing, crying for about ten minutes, then hopped off her stool and walked away. This isn’t socially acceptable. It makes me uncomfortable. I was very glad to see her go. But should she be confined because she makes me uncomfortable? Nope.
And I guess that’s the Modern age, really – that’s one of the things we worked out over the years – a clearer sense of what we put up with and what we make space for. We’ve mostly figured out how to tolerate discomfort and each other without being total dicks.
How is being “round” with Hamlet meant to get him to “show his grief?” Unless I’m misunderstanding being round, I’ve never known stern anger to be particularly effective at inspiring heart to heart sharing. If you want someone to show you his grief, giving him a stern talking to is unlikely to crack those grief gates. If you want someone to share their feeling with you, it rarely serves to put them on the defensive.
I’ve seen a lot of grief in my time. A lot of it was grief that had not been previously been shown to anyone else. In most instances, the grief was revealed in quiet, in respectful sharing, in empathy, in simply attending to, in listening.
I guess, though, this Royal family here isn’t the BEST at listening. Good at talking – all of them. Listening? Not so much.