Let him demand his fill.

Could we fill up on questions? If food was short – could we drop question after question into our bellies? Or rather drop question after question into others until we were full? I suppose it’s the answers that might fill us up.

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But not by him.

This may be Queen Gertrude’s most baffling line in the whole play. Why does she say this? Because by saying this, by defending Claudius, she’s shifting the blame from Claudius to her son. Why would she implicate her own son that way? Is it because he’s safely far away and any fury that Laertes has couldn’t touch him there? Whereas, this moment is full of threat – a current palpable threat.

I guess I’ve answered my own question – and when I played this part, I didn’t find this line hard to say. It just felt instinctive – like – protect the man in front of you. That’s it. And then maybe later, realize what you’ve said and how it may be a threat to your son.

It’s funny that what is hard to understand intellectually isn’t really that hard to understand with the body. The body responds quickly without thinking about long term effects of what one might say.

Dead.

Of all the one word sentences there are, this has got to be one of the best.

One word lines remind me of Open Scenes…a series of scenes with dialogue without a clear meaning. They are often used in acting and directing classes as a training technique. Open scenes are often full sentences but one could easily have one made up entirely of one word lines. And this one would make an impact every single time. Mostly due to its meaning but the sound, too, has a nice stop in it.

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?

Let him go, Gertrude.

Gertrude must be pretty strong. I mean to be able to hold back an incensed young man? And to continue to hold him back? Where did she get this strength? Did they train Queens in martial arts in Denmark? I’ve read that a lot of the Viking warriors were women. Maybe she’s got some Viking in her? I like a queen who can not only defend herself but also defend her husband when needed. A warrior queen.

In my current emotional state, I’d be very happy to have a warrior queen.

Tell me, Laertes, Why thou art thus incensed.

As obvious as it maybe, this is actually a pretty good strategy for talking with someone in this heightened state. Asking questions. Listening. Letting the incensed person say all the things they need to say. When a person comes ready to fight, they are not necessarily in a state of mind to explain their motives well. But the act of trying might, in fact, begin to flip the switch. Get a man talking, he’s less likely to do damage with his blade.

There’s such divinity doth hedge a king, That treason can but peep to what it would, Acts little of his will.

Peep is such a great word here. It is a bit – diminutive…kind of cute. And thinking of treason as cute and innocuous is a pretty clever way to derail it.
I imagine Treason as a giant warrior with lots of armor and hair and swords and what not and he storms his way into places – all beard and sharp weapons – and then he opens his mouth and out comes, “peep.” Like a little baby chick. “Peep, peep, peep.” He lunges. Peep! He attacks! Peep!
And everyone just can’t stop laughing and the giant warrior is defeated with laughs.

Do not fear our person.

Really? The royal we? The royal our here? To his wife? Do not fear our person is very formal language. Very formal. And it’s usually explained as an explanation for why Gertrude should let Laertes go – as she should not fear “our person.” But I wonder if it might be to Laertes, given the formality of the language.
Or rather – it may be said TO Gertrude but it is for the benefit of Laertes…a way to tell him without telling him that he, Claudius, was not afraid.
Or maybe even better – to formally declare he is not afraid of death – that he is protected by some divine bubble. It’s like, a sideways way to say he’s leading a charmed life. He might as well be declaring he can’t be killed except by someone not born of woman. But he would never say it directly…so, sure, he can tell Gertrude not to be afraid for him but it is really a way to shift the fear onto Laertes. To make him hesitate to run a sword through him.

Let him go, Gertrude.

As I write this, it is the day after the presidential election of 2016. It’s a dark dark day from my perspective. And I am horrified and flabbergasted to learn that over 50% of white women voted for Trump. I’m just…stunned. I’m a white woman myself and you could not have paid me enough money to vote for that horrifying racist misogynist sexist dumpster fire. And I’m trying to understand what was going on in those other white women’s minds.
I wonder if it isn’t some thing like this line. Here’s a dark, criminal of a king being righteously confronted by someone who has been justifiably wronged – and Gertrude leaps in to defend Claudius. Not just with words but with her whole body. Has she given over her sense of self to her husband somehow? Does she feel some protective instinct over the darkest king? Does she choose the most powerful man to back and defend? I don’t know. It baffles me. So so much.
What were you thinking my fellow white women?
Are you more afraid of people of color than the most terrifying tyrant we’ve ever seen in this country? I guess so.

And now, as I prepare to upload this to the site, it is almost two years later. And the women clinging to Brett Kavanagh during this hearing are demonstrating a similar impulse to lean into the horrors. I do not understand. At all.