Ah ha! One letter. The king gets ONE letter. All the talk of LETTERS from the sailor is reduced to A letter to the king. The other is for The Queen, of course.
But…there has been no mention of the queen in previous talk of these letters. I wonder if there’s some sort of plurality in The King.
Is there some sense of “The King” meaning both King and Queen? Like, what Hamlet says when he calls the king his mother, but with royalty.
I don’t THINK this is a thing. But given the tendency of patriarchal culture to obscure, minimize and objectify women, I wouldn’t put it past it. The way mankind means everyone. The way MAN means everyone. I can see it working like that.
This, I believe, is the first appearance of a Messenger in the play. Not that it is the first message – but every message before has been delivered by a character.
It is interesting how many layers of remove this Messenger is from the origin of the message. Shakespeare makes a point of those layers as well. The sailors (who have direct contact with Hamlet and Horatio) have passed the letters to “Claudio” who has passed them to “Messenger.” Who is Claudio? A guy with a similar name to the king…but otherwise, his only purpose in this play is to receive letters from nameless sailors and deliver them to a nameless messenger. I don’t think it’s insignificant that “Claudio” has a name – but is not important otherwise.
In some sense, it would be a protection for the messenger to be somewhat anonymous. His motives are less questionable if he is simply his job.
I am always delighted to see a Messenger in a play for obvious reasons and this one is especially delightful.
I am very curious about what life was like when Messengers were the primary delivery system, when a person had to go to another person to report new developments or send messages. All the news had to come from a human being.
Apart from there probably being a lot less news to deal with on a daily basis, there was always a human face connected to any bit of information.
I’d imagine that there was an altogether quieter mind then. Perhaps the mind created its own news coming into it – but I would like to know what that must have felt like.
Even letters had to be passed from one human hand to another. Now most of us get our news from the small rectangles that dominate our lives. Some of us even get most of it from our social media networks – perhaps an attempt to re-connect the human face to the new delivery system?
And now, as I write this, I looked up to see a cluster of police officers and two EMTs surrounding a woman with a large bag. I don’t know what is going on – but I can see all their faces from this café where I’m sitting. If I read this event in the news, it would be meaningless – but in front of me, with all those faces, it is a captivating bit of news.
The stage direction right before this line is: Enter a Messenger. This is why my theatre company is called Messenger Theatre Company. Because something is ALWAYS about to happen as soon as a Messenger enters. A messenger never enters to deliver no news. A messenger is a catalyst. A messenger moves things forward. “How now!” is an appropriate response to a messenger’s entrance.
I wonder, though, how I might use it as a company slogan. I don’t think it would take.
Enter a Messenger.
Unicorns, dancing under rainbows!
Witches casting spells that turn princes into frogs.
A love scene between a king and his advisor.
A utopian future.
A dystopia future.
There are so many ways I’d like Claudius to teach Laertes to imagine!
Though probably he’s just suggesting he imagine that Hamlet’s been “taken care of.”
On the whole it is hard to express self love. All sorts of practices propose to teach you to do it. Some of them will suggest that you practice saying you love yourself. To say “I love myself” is sticky. All the books will tell you to do it – but it sounds funny coming out of anyone’s mouth.
“We love ourself,” though, well, that’s a different story. I think all self – help books should henceforth follow Claudius’ example and suggest “we love ourself” as a self-love mantra. It helps with the plurality of the sense of self – helps with the individualist’s sense that each one of us is a king – and features both the plural and the single. Very useful this.
A guy I only know on Facebook said that he doesn’t listen to a lot of podcasts. A whole slurry of people lined up to hate on podcasts. They said they hated listening to people talking. They didn’t like listening to things. That it was like radio and radio sucks, too.
I was stunned to read all of this. I love podcasts. I cannot stop listening. I love listening to people talk. I love listening to audio stories. I love hearing comedy. I love hearing analysis. I dig hearing intelligent conversation. And I cannot fathom feeling otherwise.
It’s all the pleasure of company with none of the responsibility. It’s the smoothest way to learn new things. It’s a way to take in ideas without requiring my full attention. That is, I can listen while I fold things or sort things. I can learn while I get dressed or make breakfast.
I have listened to dozens and dozens of podcasts and dozens and dozens of voices and will shortly hear more.
I can see why that play Claudius watched could seem like a beard shaking to him. It was absolutely designed to have that effect. It is a taunt. It is a tugging on his self respect. It is a challenge, no doubt.
This is probably not what he’s trying to tell Laertes, though – because if he explained why the play was a taunt, he’d also have to explain that he has, I don’t know, MURDERED HIS BROTHER, THE PREVIOUS KING!
But what’s weird, though – is that if he’s NOT talking about the play, then he’s talking about the murder he’s committed – the victim of which is the man he’s talking to’s father.
Which doesn’t seem like a beard shaking so much. That feels a bit insulting to the man’s father. But Claudius is somehow adept at making his way through this dangerous territory.
If only intentionality played a role in what we lost sleep over. If only we could choose whether or not to break our sleeps. If we could, we’d all get a lot more sleep.
Even when I’m losing sleep for my creative work, churning over artistic decisions and whether or not I’ve really thought that ending through, it would still be better to sleep and let those answers come in the morning. But sleep breaking doesn’t work like that. We are always helpless in its power. Sleep either comes or it doesn’t. Or it comes in fits and starts.
I mostly am a good sleeper. I can sleep and sleep and sleep. But when the sleep gods decide to break me, I am powerless and will lie awake, churning and churning, brain racing – doing nothing of consequence but NOT sleeping.
That’s the breaks.
It will, too. But like those arrows Claudius just described, they’re going to turn right around and get you. Revenge is like that. One revenge leads to another.
And it often backfires in the process, bringing the revenge onto the person who attempted it. Revenge IS good for dramas in that it is an endless cycle of dramatic events. But for life? It’ll get you before it gets your target, most likely.