My friend’s father is declining rapidly. He was always a man full of vigor and vitality but has, in recent months, lost his ability to move with ease, has fallen, has relied on a wheelchair for the first time. His speed has shifted.
There are people throughout the world that have gone through this before. It is a common enough occurrence – but they were not my friend. And their father’s were not my friend’s father.
When we were first friends, I learned a lot about my friend’s father. He was a strong force in her life. When I met him, I felt as though I knew him already. He was so vividly and accurately described by her. Now, in my friend’s email update on the situation, the vividness in description is just as sharp. I feel as though I am a witness to something I am miles away from. I wish though, that I were closer, to be able to be more a support.
At the moment, I’m re-evaluating everything, trying to figure out how to approach organizing my life in new circumstances. I find that age has made me lose my nerve a little bit. I’m more risk averse than I used to be. I feel like I’m controlling for the inevitable failure at the end – as if failure is inevitable.
This was not always the case with me. I used to be convinced that success was inevitable – that any setback was merely a bump in the road. I was foot on the gas on the road to my dreams at all times. No stopping. I think now, in my process of figuring out how to proceed, I need to consult with my younger self and see what she would like, what she would have now.
It’s probably significant that this line is spoken by a character called “Gentleman.” It is often played by a servant character of Horatio – but I think the Gentleman is on purpose. Only a gentleman might find the strength and have permission to speak to the Queen this way. A servant would likely not dare to advocate for the crazy woman outside the door. A servant might be like, “Uh. The Queen says no. Get that crazy lady out of here, pronto.”
Similarly, it’s a little weird when directors have Horatio speak these lines. It makes him seem a little presumptuous and familiar with his friend’s mother – when everything Horatio actually does and says is much more measured – with a kind of distance, a remove from the whole experience. He has a foreigner’s reserve – so to have him plead Ophelia’s case is weird.
This line is a Gentleman’s job.
I don’t much long to be Queen. But this little thing definitely seems like a perk of queening. There are so many people I’d like to declare that I will not speak with. And to have someone to stand at a door and say, “No. She won’t speak with you.”
Oh my god. I want a person like that at my disposal. I mean. I love people.
But I screen my calls. I don’t like to engage with people I don’t want to engage with.
I might be happy to be a queen just so I could decide who I didn’t have to speak to.
It is useful to have a guiding principle. I mean, if it’s blood – okay…maybe not the NICEST touchstone to have – but at least it’s clear. Is this thought bloody? No? It’s out. Next! How about this one? It is a way to keep one’s self on task, I suppose.
I feel like I use art this way sometimes. Does this decision help my art? Yes? It’s in. Does it hurt it? Out. Out. Art is my touchstone.
Blood becomes Hamlet’s – and even though he’s said this before he does rather hold to it. He pretty much gets on a killing spree right after this speech. Sailors, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a grapple with Laertes, a swordfight with Laertes, a sword through Claudius finally before his own blood leaves him.
I’ve seen this passage used as a critique of war, of militaristic thinking, but it’s ironic because – Hamlet’s not really saying twenty thousand men dying for no reason is wrong, he’s saying 20 thousand men dying for no reason shame him for his failure to commit a murder. It’s like the men dying for no reason are inevitable and just exist to make Hamlet feel bad for sending one more man to his grave. Hamlet wouldn’t necessarily do anything differently than Fortinbras here. He’s clearly convinced that Fortinbras is honorable and this dumb troop killing battle is somehow honorable as well.
It just points out, for him, that people dying for no reason are somehow more honorable than him.
But in any case the twenty thousand are definitely going to their graves like beds. It’s just a question of whether the numbered dead might have included Claudius, making the dead Twenty Thousand and One. Twenty thousand for no reason. One for a good reason.
Yes. Self-talk at its finest.
Because it’s not like Hamlet’s been siting around doing nothing. He’s not kickin’ back playing video games, lying around staring at the ceiling or even reading. At almost every moment, he is trying to work out what to do and the best way to do it. He’s staged a play. He’s killed someone in trying to kill his target.
To me, it looks like Hamlet has been trying to get this revenge in a careful measured way for two thirds of the play and then ends up overly excited and kills the wrong guy. At which point, it’s not his sleeping that is preventing him from killing Claudius, it’s opportunity.
I’m sure Claudius has guarded both himself and Hamlet heavily. There is no way for him to do his father’s will under the current circumstances.
But of course that’s not what he says to himself. No, no…to himself, everything is his fault. And not due to circumstances at all, but some mortal character flaw.
And thousands of literary critics followed and wailed about his tragic flaw.
Yeah. I don’t think this is right. I know this whole honor thing might have made sense in the 1500s – but now, in most situations, we don’t go in for this line of thinking. The only contemporary cultures that are particularly concerned with honor are closed, monocultural clusters. This is how you get Hatfields and McCoys. This is how you get Bloods and Crips. This is how young women get murdered by their families for having a young woman’s body and not submitting to shame. You can be murdered for desire in the name of some dude’s “honor.”
So when women’s bodies become as inconsequential as a piece of straw to fight over, I suggest that honor may be a dated concept that it is time to retire.
With the deaths and burials of my grandparents these last few years, I have had more exposure to the military than I have in all the years pervious. An army does have great mass and charge and to lead them effectively does require delicacy and tenderness. I’ve been reading the West Point Alumni magazine and in it I learned about the ways that institute strives to create effective leadership.
I also read an example of a student leader who stepped in to relieve underclassmen who needed some reinforcements on some task.
Leading a group of people to a war over an eggshell or a scrap of worthless land doesn’t feel as though it’s very good leadership.
Not delicate. Not tender.
At my grandmother’s burial, we stayed after the service to watch her interment.
Her ashes were in a sealed box and they were going into the ground. Under the grassy tarp, there was a board, covering the hole and a pile of dirt. A pile of earth.
I suppose a pile of earth meant to cover someone’s earthly remains might be seen as gross – but it didn’t seem that way to me. There was, in fact, something poignant about that pile of earth. It sat. Patient. Waiting for my grandmother’s arrival. It was in no hurry. It had a delicacy, a respect somehow. And once the crew had placed her box in its box and lowered it all into the ground, a man with a shovel moved the pile back to the hole from which it had come.
In this high tech world, it is somehow moving that it can still come down to a man and a shovel. We can hide on the internet but our end is still a man and a shovel. As it ever was.