I understand you not, my lord.

Poor Rosencrantz. Does he really not understand or is he pretending not to understand?
If he doesn’t understand wouldn’t it have been wiser to ask exactly what Hamlet means? And if Hamlet had broken it down for him a bit, would he reconsider his position as resident toady for the King?
I mean, with Polonius gone, there’s no other obvious choice for company toady. Rosencrantz may be angling for the spying, sucking up position. And, of course, ends up dead. Osric steps in to the position later – and he lives, it would seem. One of the few to survive the play.

Advertisements

Tell us where ‘tis, that we may take it thence And bear it to the chapel.

They’re really outing themselves now. They’re not even trying to pretend that they’re there as Hamlet’s friends. This line makes it crystal clear where their alliance lies.
1) They know about the dead body. And they’re coming after Hamlet for it.
2) They have the job of carrying the dead body to the chapel. This is not work you give your step-son’s friends. This is work you give to your cronies. Plain and simple. What’s that line about how a good friend will help you move but the best friends will help you move a body?

What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?

I’ve done some work with a program in which students use Shakespeare as found text. They’re constantly searching for lines that could apply to their new (invented) circumstances. Most recently, I had a group creating a kidnapping scene and another creating a Black Lives Matter protest show. It is not easy to fold one thing into the other.

I feel like this line would be a great one for one of those sorts of dramatic devised scenes. I can imagine a group just developing a whole new scene with only this line as a prompt. It would be a different way to start – but a very interesting one.

We will haste us.

Probably what they should have said FIRST. Probably didn’t need to speechify about a bunch of kingly things. Probably should have said, “Yes, sir. We’ll go to England as you asked. Thank you very much. We will haste us, goodbye.”
But. . .it takes all kinds. And it can take time for people to get a hint. Like, the people who just won’t hang up or who won’t leave or who won’t let you leave. Maybe Rosencrantz is one of THOSE.

Never alone did the king sigh, but with a general groan.

This is why I’m glad to not be a king.
Being able to sigh on your own
just whenever you feel like it
without really bothering anyone;
Well this is not to be underestimated
I imagine that some might enjoy it – enjoy the constant attention and responsiveness of people around them. And generally, those are the kind of people who want to be king. Which makes me think about Utah Phillips and that little speech he gives about anyone who wants to be president being just the kind of president we don’t need.
He says something like the best presidents have been the Do Nothing Presidents.
Which is perhaps kind of a flaw in our democracy. Because giving rulership to a guy who wants it the most selects for a certain kind of leader. Just handing down leadership to anyone who happens to be next in line allows for some diversity in leadership styles. At least a little bit – because, of course, those that want to be king will find a way. That’s why we get such stories as are in Richard 3 or Henry the 4th or Richard the 2nd and soon.
And this oft quoted line serves them all.

Which when it falls, each small annexment, petty consequence, attends the boisterous ruin.

Uh? Rosencrantz? I’m not sure you’re making this situation any better.
You’re going from the king’s very personal death, to mass destruction and ending with a boisterous ruin.
I mean. . .weren’t you guys just talking about sending Hamlet to England?
How in the world did you end up at boisterous ruin? Well, shortly – you end up at general groan. . .which is slightly less apocalyptic than the death and boisterous ruin.

This speech is often cut, for many many good reasons – chief among them the way it adds absolutely nothing to the plot of the scene. It does, however, add an odd little something about Rosencrantz’s character. Who is this guy, when talking about taking this guy’s stepson out of the way, goes on an epic dystopian riff about the death of the man he’s talking to?

The sidekick doth protest too much, methinks. Is he trying to convince himself that taking Hamlet to England, (and possibly he knows that England is code for taking him to his death) is the right thing to do? The worse the circumstances are the more justified he is in doing it. It’s got to be apocalyptic, I guess.

Or ‘tis a massy wheel Fixed on the summit of the highest mount, To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things Are mortised and adjoined;

There’s the wheel. This one’s mossy.
It is not a weal. It is a wheel.
Surely that will be heard and clear! (Surely not.)
This is a bizarre metaphor.
A giant wheel? At the top of a mountain?
That’s got a whole bunch of little things attached to it? Huh?
It’s not like – say, a cart?
Or – some actual wheeled thing?
No – I picture something like a bicycle wheel with lots of stuff stuck in between the spokes, playing cards, trinkets, tassels and decorative plastic flowers – and this weird wheel is hanging out at the top of a mountain –
Maybe little strings hang down from it and stuff moves when the wheel turns, like puppets attached to their controls.
What the hell is Rosencrantz going on about?

The cess of majesty Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw What’s near it with it;

I think, Rosencrantz, it’s probably not good etiquette to mention the king’s death to the king, even philosophically. No one’s particularly keen to be reminded he is going to die, but especially kings and (you can’t know this) but especially kings who have committed regicide. So you’re reminding him, Rosencrantz, of not only his OWN death but the death of the previous king, his brother.
It’s just not good form.

But much more That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests The lives of many.

Weal is a funny word – because, when spoken as this is meant to be, it sounds just like “wheel” and in meaning, yes, weal, as in well being might actually make more sense – but as a metaphor, the many lives might just as easily roll along on the spirit of a wheel. like a train or a car.
And in fact, when this speech gets going, it goes EXACTLY there. There is a weal, then a wheel – like Rosencrantz got to the wheel metaphor from using the weal one. Now all we’d need to get a real confusing pun-tastic speech going is to get someone with a little speech impediment to talk about something real. You know, someone who can’t really say his Rs, so he talks about shows that are weally weally good.