Monday, November 30, 2015

Lucy Maud Montgomery Tag

Today is Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthday!  She got her own Google Doodle, even :-)  And today Eva kicks off the LMM Week at her blog, Coffee, Classics, and Craziness.  She's provided a nice tag for anyone to do who wishes to, and I wish to, so I am!

How did you first discover LMM’s books?

A friend of my mom's told her about the Anne books when I was about 7.  My mom read them aloud to us, and then I got copies for birthdays and such and read them all myself.  In college, my lit prof told me I would like the Emily books, so I read those after college when I had time to read whatever I pleased again.  And I recently read The Blue Castle for the first time on the strong recommendation of many blogging friends, especially Heidi and Naomi.

What’s your favorite LMM book?


What’s your least favorite LMM book?

Rainbow Valley, I think.  Or Rilla of Ingleside.  Both suffer from not enough Anne, too much of her children.  Or so I thought when I read them in my tweens and teens!  I have decided to re-read all of the Anne books in 2016 because it's been almost 20 years since I read several of the later ones.

Who is your favorite character in allllll of LMM’s works?

Anne Shirley.

What couple is your favorite?

Valency Stirling and Barney Snaith in The Blue Castle.  Yes, it's true -- I think I prefer them a wee bit over Anne and Gilbert as a couple.

What is your favorite quote from LMM (either a quote from one of her books, or from her personal life)?

ONE?!?!?!?!  Well, I have this magnet on my fridge:

How many LMM books have you read?

Thirteen!  The 8 Anne books, the 3 Emily books, and The Blue Castle, plus a collection of her short stories.  

Which LMM book would you most like to see made into a movie?

The Blue Castle, but only if I get to be the screenwriter and director, and if I get to cast Michael Fassbender as Barney (HEY!  He likes to work with first-time filmmakers, so it could happen!) and Elizabeth Henstridge as Valency.

(I should not have made this.  Now I keep staring at it and wanting to reread TBC.)

Have you found a kindred spirit?

Several!  :-)

Do please join the fun if you've a mind to!  Eva's kick-off post with the tag questions is here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Soliloquies -- A Guest Post by Kelda

"The Soliloquies"
by Kelda

What got me started on this was a prof's assertion that soliloquies "by definition must be true," for no one can lie to him/herself. Hamlet's soliloquies show that he is not necessarily "putting an antic disposition" on. There are times that he behaves wildly: after the ghost, with Ophelia, with R&G after the Play within a play, but those are the manic side of his illness, as uncontrolled as the bouts of depression.

Here I will go through each soliloquy, then, and discuss them and how they help explore Hamlet's depression and support my idea that he is bi-polar.

ACT I, SCENE 5, line 5

(This immediately follows the ghost's disappearance, and as he finishes, Horatio and Marcellus find him. They want to know of course what the ghost had to say. Now, okay, Hamlet is spewing "wild and whirling words" and accuses both of being untrustworthy. Once in awhile, Horatio just has to snap back. Hamlet says, "There's ne'er a villain dwelling in Denmark but he's an errant villain." Yes, Horatio is usually soft spoken, but here his nerves and the cold night combine to make him snap back, "It takes no ghost, my lord, to come from the grave to tell us this." This tells us that he'll be ready to speak up about anything.)
O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? Hold, hold, my heart!
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee?
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables! Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark. [Writes.]
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word:
It is 'Adieu, adieu! Remember me.'
I have sworn't.
(Notice that Hamlet's first curse is on his mother, not Claudius.)
ACT I,SCENE II, line 12
(Claudius and Gertrude have accepted Hamlet's "fair and loving" agreement to stay in Denmark. I think Claudius overthought this, Y'know the motto: "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." Hamlet remains in the room alone.)
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month-
Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman!-
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears- why she, even she
(O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn'd longer) married with my uncle;
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
(Again, he principally is angry toward his mother; Claudius just gets by in mention. It's full of exclamation marks -- is he already popping manic? Probably not.)

ACT II, SCENE II, Line 249

(Heeeere they are, R&G. Notice they start out with a string of lies. So it takes no time at all to contrast them with Horatio. Hamlet only needs about 20 lines to get them to admit they are there at the request of the king and queen. Okay, technically not a soliloquy, because R&G are there -- but they're not listening to anything he says until they think he has made a bawdy joke. And Hamlet is again on his theme of  the pollution of the "goodly earth.")
I have of late- but wherefore I know not- lost all my
mirth, forgone all custom of exercises*; and indeed, it goes so
heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the
air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical
roof fretted with golden fire- why, it appeareth no other thing
to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a
piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in
faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in
action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what
is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me- no, nor woman
neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
(* "forgone all custom of exercise:" remember this: Hamlet tries to reverse this with Horatio, who doesn't let him get away with it.)

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing! No, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by th' nose? gives me the lie i' th' throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this, ha?
'Swounds, I should take it! for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal. Bloody bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murther'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must (like a whore) unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! Hum, I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murther, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ, I'll have these Players
Play something like the murther of my father
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
T' assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this. The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
(Two "ears" references, lol. This is the longest soliloquy, and it has three distinctive mood changes, at least as Campbell Scott plays it. He comes into large empty room where there is life-size portrait of Claudius hanging high on the wall, with an ornate chair beneath it. He jumps on the chair and wrestles the portrait to the floor, pinning him under it. There's a pause -- the only thing showing of CS is his hands still gripping the frame. There is a low chuckle as he wriggles free, going into "what a rogue and peasant slave am I" and several lines comparing himself to the skill of the First Player. This portion of the soliloquy is self-pitying, but for the first time we see the anger as he builds into "Am I a coward?" He takes control of himself with "About, my brain." He deliberately pulls that dangerous (to himself) mood down, and recalls that the ghost may have been a devil feeding on his mood disorder, and he ends with a more moderate, hopeful note of the Play with in a play. Had I been the Director of the Week ~grin~ I would have had Hamlet slash the portrait at the middle, anger-ridden part of the speech. The king and queen would have noticed it as they passed through the room on their way to play, certainly stirring the king's conscience,)


To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.- Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia!- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins rememb'red.
(In the Campbell Scott version, he is wandering about as the soliloquy begins, carrying a book. He is agitated. He throws himself into a chair, and after a few moments of reflection, he removes his reading glasses and slams them into a side table, shattering them. He touches the tip of the largest shard to his tongue, testing its sharpness.  He cuts three long lines on the inside of his arm. My prof friend, when he saw this, said, "Oh! So we know he means it!" Bipolar moods run in cycles -- sometimes lengthy, sometimes what's called "quick cycling" in a case of hours or even minutes. That can be difficult to deal with. The greatest danger of suicide is not in the deepest depression, when the sufferer often is too overwhelmed to plan and act. It is when the depression begins to lift, and as the manic phase begins. Hamlet is tottering on the brink here. He sees Ophelia, and his mood jumps another notch. But he was a few moments ago referring to the "pangs of desprised love," and unfortunately Ophelia has been too well coached by her father. Hamlet's mania and his related anger run away with his good judgement, resulting in verbal and often physical abuse, shaking her, pushing her against the wall.  And after a too-brief meeting with Horatio, who doesn't have time to dampen his mood, he leaps straight into the over-stimulation of the Play within the play. You'll see him soon in full manic mood with R&G.)

ACT III, SCENE III, line 377

(Immediately after the Play within a play. Backing up a little before before the soliloquy: now you see an all-out manic mood from Hamlet -- he engages in the aforementioned "wild and whirling words" with Horatio, who seems to be amused, and quips "You might have rhymed it." Then R&G make their entrance, and Hamlet turns on them, not just with words, but in most productions he physically assaults one or even both of them, and Polonius gets in on the melee, bearing a message from Gertrude. Hamlet finally ends with "Leave me, friends." I get angry that he has included Horatio with the others. So then, finally to the soliloquy.)

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother!
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites-
**How in my words somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!**
(**lol -please tell ME what these lines mean!)

(Wherein we catch the conscience of the king.)
O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murther! Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will.
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what's in prayer but this twofold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murther'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murther-
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain th' offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law; but 'tis not so above.
There is no shuffling; there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels! Make assay.
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!
All may be well.
(There's an interesting image in the last three lines. Look back at ACT I, SCENE V beginning 93, where Hamlet says: "Hold, hold, my heart; and you, my sinews, grow not instant old, but bear me  stiffly up.'" One wants strength to stand, the other wants his heart and sinews to bow before God. Now, this comes from my seminary work and after all these years, I can't be certain I'm getting it right- -the differences are difficult for me, so feel free to correct me! Regarding the Catholic/Protestant attitudes of forgiveness: The Catholic must confess to a priest and perform the assigned penance, so s/he is forgiven on sort of an ongoing, repetitive basis. The Protestant is to confess directly to God (no middle-man cleric) and accept that his/her forgiveness is not so much within the scope of actions (penance) as it is the Grace of God. Claudius strikes me as leaning toward Catholicism -- but where in Denmark could he have found a confessor, and how could he atone, indeed, when he will not surrender his queen, crown or ambition? Another minor point: Protestants pray only to God; Catholics also pray to saints and angels as go-betweens with the Divine, and Claudius implores the intervention of angels.)

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven,
And so am I reveng'd. That would be scann'd.
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge!
He took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him; and am I then reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
When he is drunk asleep; or in his rage;
Or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't-
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
(Hamlet exits; the king, rising, says, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.  Words without thoughts never to heaven go.")
(Maybe it's just bad luck on Hamlet's part that Claudius isn't sincere in his prayers. Although,  I think Claudius is remorseful. Depending on just when the play was set in Denmark's history, he might have escaped death in favor of life exile. On the other hand, he might have died by 'spread eagle,' where a person is tied face down over a rock, his back and rib cage cut open and his lungs pulled out. That would be bloody enough for even Shakespeare, though would have to be off-stage -- someone, likely Hamlet, would have to describe it.)

And, England, if my love thou hold'st at aught,-
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us,- thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,
By letters congruing to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England;
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know 'tis done,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.
(What do you think of Claudius' decision to push off on England the murder of Hamlet? My first thought was, "Oh yeah -- he fooled everyone but God with his remorse soliloquy." The question which often comes up in these few lines, is do R&G know what's in that letter?? I'll leave that to discuss in ACT/SCENE section.)

ACT IV, SCENE IV, line 37

(Hamlet is at the dock, waiting for his departure. This is often set at dusk, with many campfires burning in the distance. It is cold, and the Prince has been hustled out without a cloak. I remember the first time I saw the soldiers tie his wrists -- I actually gasped aloud that a Prince would be treated so! In my story I'm writing, "Remember Me," Horatio makes his way to the dock, clasping a cloak around his friend's shoulders, and showing him a small knife and Old King Hamlet's signet ring pinned in a fold. When he leaves, reluctantly, Hamlet questions one of the Norwegian soldiers about their mission.)
How all occasions do inform against me
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unus'd. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th' event,-
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward,- I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do,'
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with divine ambition puff'd,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
​( Hamlet is taken aback, maybe somewhat ashamed, to see a great army -- supposedly -- dispatched to certain death. He is almost, but not quite, slipping into his depression. Why he calls Fortinbras a delicate and tender prince, I do not know! Assuming directors haven't excised Fortinbras entirely, Claudius' ambassadors have assured him that this is not an invasion, but simply passage to Poland for a war larger than little Denmark. Again with the reference to cowardness, although he somewhat begrudgingly does allow himself 1/4 part wisdom now. The Norwegian army "finds quarrel in a straw," while he has the burden of revenge for his father. His mania holds as he swears to keep his thoughts bloody. His first strike is by proxy R&G, which IMHO is a nice start.)

(Note from Hamlette:  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights into all the soliloquies, Kelda!  I'm especially fascinated by your ideas about whether they might show that Hamlet is bi-polar.  Thank you!)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Review on SDMW: "Luther and Katharina" by Jody Hedlund

I'm very excited to announce that I have written a book review for the excellent Christian blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife!  I've been following that blog for over a year, and it has provided me with a lot of inspiration and encouragement, as well as moments of soul-searching.  

Anyway, I've reviewed Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund for SDMW because it's a Lutheran-focused blog (though I'm quite sure it would interest many of my blogging friends who are not Lutherans too -- it focuses primarily on Christian vocation) and obviously, that book is about Martin Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora.  You can read my post here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What My Kids are Reading #3

Yikes!  It's been a long time since I shared some of the books my kids have been into lately.  In fact, Sam has had a birthday since the last installment -- he's EIGHT now!  Anyway, here's what they've been reading lately:

Sam (8)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien -- we gave him this for his birthday, and he read the whole thing that same day.  And then read it again the next day.  I think that by now, he's read it seven or eight times.  I'm so happy!  I'm also super tempted to start him on The Fellowship of the Ring, but I'm making myself wait until he's ten for that, as I think right now he would get overwhelmed.

Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner by Rush Limbaugh and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh -- the latest in a series about a time-travelling horse named Liberty who takes people back into America's past to learn about our forefathers.  I haven't read any of them myself, but Sam laughs and laughs over them.

The Caboose Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner -- one of the original Boxcar Children mysteries.  By now, there are more than a hundred in the series, but the first nineteen are the originals, and those are the only ones I will buy.  I've been picking them up at library book sales and thrift stores for years now, and have almost all of them.  I do let Sam read the others from the library, but I won't buy them because they're not nearly as good.

Sarah (5) and Tootie (3)

Hide and Squeak by Heather Vogel Frederick, illustrated by C. F. Payne -- a cute book about a daddy mouse trying to get his little mouse to go to bed.  My kids like to pretend they are mice, so that made this especially enjoyable for them.  I like Frederick's "Mother-Daughter Book Club" series, so I got a kick out of this being written by the same author.

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss -- my favorite story here is "Too Many Daves," a very short story of a mother who foolishly named all 23 of her sons "Dave" and now wishes she hadn't.  My kids love "The Sneetches," which is actually a lesson in tolerance and the fact that a person's appearance is irrelevant.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood -- a whimsical tale of a napping house, where everyone is sleeping, at least until a wakeful flea causes some mischief.  I really like Audrey Wood's books -- her The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is another of our favorites, and so are Alphabet Rescue and Alphabet Adventure.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 5 -- Part Two

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here comes Laertes!  You may have noticed that I have a great and abiding fondness for Laertes -- I not only feel very sympathetic toward him, but when he's played well, he's such an inspiringly good older brother.  Of course, a lot of times he's kind of left in the dust, treated like a sort of extra dude to have around, but once in a while a production gets him really right, and then I'm very happy :-)

Okay, so in comes Laertes, with this big mob behind him that wants to make him king instead of Claudius because they think Claudius is involved in Polonius' death or whatever.  I am never quite sure why they think Laertes should be king, to be honest, other than that maybe they don't like how Claudius is managing things, and with Hamlet gone, they just pick Laertes as the likeliest candidate?  Hmm.  Anyway, Laertes is pretty riled, isn't he?  Even reading the words, you can tell he's yelling and gesticulating and probably brandishing a sword, can't you?

I've got to shake my head at Claudius, though.  He makes this nice little speech about how "[t]here's such divinity doth hedge a king" that treasonous people can't hurt them (124).  But, dude, you totally killed a king yourself, Claudius!  So you're just an old faker with that line -- trying to keep convincing Gertrude and everyone else that you had nothing to do with your brother's death. 

Back to Laertes -- he's such an energetic contrast to Hamlet.  He says, "I'll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father" (134-35).  He's making all kinds of vows about it, behaving in every way like a stereotypical vengeance-seeker, isn't he?  And then he drops all his ranting and threatening when Ophelia returns.  I absolutely love how tender and kind he is toward here, and how sad he is about her affliction.  "O rose of May" (156) is one of the loveliest nicknames I can think of for the flower-loving Ophelia.

Speaking of flowers, I'm sure whatever edition you're reading probably talks all about the fact that back when Shakespeare was writing this, people had assigned meaning to various flowers, and these were common knowledge, so his audience would totally have known what Ophelia meant by giving various things to the other characters.  There are no stage directions for who she gives them to, so different productions assign them differently.  Just for your personal knowledge...
Rosemary = remembrance
Pansies = thoughts
Fennel = flattery and deceit
Columbines = ingratitude and infidelity
Rue = sorrow and repentance
Daisy = springtime and innocent love
Violets = spring and youth
Also, remember that Laertes mentioned violets to Ophelia back when he was warning her against falling in love with Hamlet.  Later, he'll mention them again at her graveside.  Violets are one of my favorite flowers, so tiny they get hidden by the grass, but when you find one, it's like a little hidden treasure.  I like the idea of them representing Ophelia, that most people overlook or ignore her, but Laertes and Hamlet see her for the treasure she is.

Ophelia wanders out again, and Claudius promises to prove to Laertes that he had nothing to do with Polonius' death, and we're done with the scene!

Favorite Lines:

"And where the offense is, let the great axe fall" (211).

Possible Discussion Questions:  When Claudius tells Laertes that Polonius is dead, Gertrude jumps in with "But not by him" (128).  Why does she defend Claudius and throw the blame on Hamlet?  Just because Hamlet isn't here to get attacked by Laertes for it?  Or does she still love Claudius after all that Hamlet has told her?

Who of the characters present here do you think Ophelia should give each of her flowers to, based on what they signify?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 5 -- Part One

This is another scene that has SO MUCH going on that I'm going to split this into two parts.

Oh, this is a sad scene, isn't it?  For me, it's the saddest in the whole play.  I mean, yes, there's plenty of tragicalness to come, but Ophelia having lost her mind... it's heartbreaking.  She's probably the most guiltless character here, possibly except Horatio, and she's been so badly used by her father, her paramour, and her king -- I feel terrible for her.

Isn't it interesting that the Gentleman says Ophelia's "speech is nothing, Yet the unshaped use of it doth move The hearers to collection" (7-9) kind of mirrors what Polonius said about Hamlet's antic speech, that "though this be madness, yet there is method in't (II, 2, 201-02).  Hamlet was only pretending to mad, but it seems he was doing a very realistic job of it.

Also, even though Hamlet has been basically banished from Denmark, Horatio is still here.  And not just still here, but hanging out with Gertrude, giving her advice.  Do you suppose Hamlet asked him to stay and keep an eye on things?  Why do you think Claudius has kept him around?  I really have no idea -- I'm just doing my usual thing where I try to fill in gaps in stories I love.

Anyway, so Gertrude doesn't want to talk to Ophelia, but Horatio convinces her it would be a good idea, so in comes poor Ophelia.  She seems to be referring to her father's death and burial with her song about "He is dead and gone, lady" (28).  Then later she sings this rather bawdy song about a maiden who lost her virtue to a man who had promised to marry him, only to be spurned by him.  Sometimes this gets staged in a very bawdy way, implying more or less directly that this song somehow pertains to what's passed between Ophelia and Hamlet.  I'd like to share this insight from John Gielgud on this song:
"I'm rather sick of the wild indecency that has been put into the scene in recent productions, with Ophelia tearing off her clothes and clutching all the gentlemen.  I don't think Shakespeare meant it.  It must be a touching scene.  You see, I think in Shakespeare's time people always laughed at lunatics.  They visited madhouses right up to the eighteenth century in England as we visit the zoo today.  And Shakespeare knew that the only way to make madness pitiful, as is obvious with Lady Macbeth and Ophelia, was to give them a poignant, agonized, though not sentimental, scene.  If that was not intended by Shakespeare, Laertes would never say 'Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself she turns to favor and to prettiness.'  And to suddenly make Ophelia openly lewd onstage is against the intention of the writing." (John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet, Richard L. Sterne, p.16-17)
I like that.  (Obviously, or I wouldn't have taken the time to type it all up, huh?)  I don't personally think that Ophelia has been debauched by Hamlet, or is given to singing naughty songs.  I think it's much more likely this is a song she's heard the soldiers singing and thought was catchy, and it's just come to her mind now for some reason, so out it pops.  But if that's the case, I do wonder why Shakespeare has her sing it in particular... who knows.  The Freudians would say her madness has let her subconscious urges surface or something, I suppose.

Anyway, Ophelia threatens that Laertes will hear of Polonius' death (though clearly he already has) and runs off.  Claudius instructs Horatio to follow her and watch over her, and off goes Horatio too.  And that's where we'll stop today.

Favorite Lines:

"So full of artless jealously is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt" (18-19).

"Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be" (42-43).

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions" (77-78).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Hamlet is all about play-acting versus truly being, so of course Hamlet's feigned madness gets contrasted with Ophelia's genuine madness here.  Can you think of other reasons Shakespeare might have made her go mad instead of just making her really weepy or angry about Polonius' death and Hamlet's absence?  (Obviously if you haven't read/seen the whole play, this isn't going to work quite as well, but give it a whirl anyway if you want!)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 4

Here we finally meet Fortinbras.  We've been talking about him since the beginning of the play, how he's thinking of attacking Denmark, then he's agreeing not to attack Denmark, then he's asking to march through Denmark to attack Poland.  Kind of a restless boy, methinks.  Lots of energy and desire to go punch people or something.  He only gets a few lines, and exits before Hamlet enters.  

I've talked a little before about Hamlet's foils in the play, 'foil' meaning "a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character" (Wikipedia).  Prince Hamlet has several foils, namely Horatio, Laertes, and Fortinbras.  (Some argue that Claudius is also a foil, but I think that's a bit of a stretch, so I'll be discussing the three others here.)  Horatio is like Hamlet in being a student, but he isn't royal or even necessarily noble, doesn't seem to have any issues with his parents.  He's Hamlet as he used to be, kind of carefree and able to do what he wants most of the time.  Then there's Laertes, who is like Hamlet in that his father gets murdered, and we'll see how he reacts to that before long.  And then we have Fortinbras.  Fortinbras's father was killed by Hamlet's father in a battle, and he wanted to attack Denmark in revenge, but gets persuaded not to by his uncle, the king of Norway.  By comparing the actions, attitudes, and reactions of these three with Hamlet, we can kind of sharpen our understanding of Hamlet in some ways.  See the choices he has made in a new light, when contrasted with the choices of others like him, that sort of thing.  Just some stuff for you to mull over if you feel like it!

Okay, anyway, the rest of this scene is about Hamlet and a captain in Fortinbras' army discussing how stupid this war is going to be, that all these men will die because someone wants a little scrap of unprofitable ground.  Hamlet then launches into his seventh and final soliloquy.  He considers the point of being alive -- is it just to eat and sleep?  No, he thinks that when God gave men understanding and reason, he expected them to use it.  And I think Hamlet doesn't want to waste those abilities that he has -- waste them by killing Claudius and thereby throwing his life away.  But he sees this "delicate and tender prince" (45) Fortinbras (and he's being deliciously sarcastic there, isn't he?) leading all these men to their death for no real reason at all, and he thinks, "I have so many actual good reasons to fight and kill, why don't I go ahead and do it?"  So he decides "from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!" (63)  Whether he sticks to that resolution or not remains to be seen.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Why might Shakespeare have had Fortinbras exit before Hamlet enters?  What might they have said to each other if they had met here?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Upcoming Events Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

Here are a couple of things my blogging friends are organizing.  Thought some of you might be interesting in participating too :-)

First, Eva is holding Lucy Maud Montgomery Week beginning on LMM's birthday, November 30.  I'm going to be participating in this in at least one way, possibly more, depending on how much time I have :-)

Second, Carissa is planning to read and review lots and lots and lots of Christmas fiction on her book blog.  She invites anyone interested to join her, and she'll compile a list or two of other people's Christmas book reviews too.  I have a couple in mind that I hope to start reading soon myself!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: And I Quote

Been a while since I did one of these, huh?  Anyway, this week's TTT topic, as set forth by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So.  I'm going to go with just books I've read in 2015, so here we go!  In alphabetical order by title just because I don't feel like figuring out which I like best.  All titles are linked to my reviews here on my blog.

From The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum:

1.  The day was being born, and so was he (p. 34).

2.  "The easiest thing in the world is to convince yourself that you're right" (p. 371).

From Corral Nocturne by Elisabeth Grace Foley:

3.  "No man in his right mind would want Ed for a brother," she said aloud to herself, and then added as an afterthought, "and I wouldn't want to marry the other kind."

From Dear Enemy by Jean Webster:

4.  You never know what is going on in a perfectly respectable-looking child's pocket (p. 241).

From The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows:

5.  That's what I love about reading:  one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book.  It's geometrically progressive -- all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment (p. 11-12).

From A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz:

6.  Austen, I realized, had not been writing about everyday things because she couldn't think of anything else to talk about.  She had been writing about them because she wanted to show how important they really are (p. 12).

From Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson:

7.  ...there is joy in embracing -- rather than running screaming from -- the utter absurdity of life" (p. 308).

From The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle:

8.  So passed the seasons then, so pass they now, and so they will pass in time to come, whilst we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten (p. 174).

From North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell:

9.  He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her.  Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love (p. 264).

From A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd:

10.  And some miracles, the very best miracles of all, show up wearing cowboy boots (p. 101).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 3

Claudius and Hamlet confront each other at last, verbally circling each other like wolves or knife-fighters, each looking for an opportunity to strike.  Claudius keeps asking where Polonius' body is, and Hamlet keeps making mocking or cryptic answers.  

Since Hamlet has been attending the University of Wittenburg, we can assume that his line "Your worm is your only emperor for diet" (20-21) probably refers obliquely to the famed Diet of Worms in 1521, where Martin Luther (who taught at Wittenburg University) and a bunch of Roman Catholic officials argued over the idea of transubstantiation during Holy Communion.  ("Diet" in that case meant "meeting," and Worms is a city in Germany, pronounced Vorms.)  I like this little nod to his life as a student, a life we know so little about. 

And then comes one of my favorite passages, when Hamlet basically tells Claudius to go to Hell, only in a far subtler and funnier way.  He says Polonius is "[i]n Heaven.  Send thither to see.  If your messenger find him not there, seek him i' th' other place yourself" (32-33).  Zing!  

Here's a clip from the 2000 movie starring Ethan Hawke as Hamlet and Kyle MacLachlan as Claudius -- it's very menacing, and more violent than the scene usually gets played, which really brings home the seriousness of the situation, I think.

And when everyone else leaves, we get a tiny soliloquy from Claudius about his plan to have the king of England kill Hamlet.  Bad, naughty, evil Claudius :-(

Favorite Lines:

"Do it, England" (61).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Why is Claudius getting other people to kill Hamlet for him instead of just poisoning him like he did King Hamlet?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Song of Thanksgiving -- Inkling Explorations for November, 2015

This month, Heidi Peterson's Inklings link-up topic is "A Giving of Thanks in Poetry or Prose."  I've decided to share one of my favorite hymns for my submission.

I love the words for this hymn so much!  Some of the lines are just gorgeous and beg to be said or sung;  "glad adoration" is probably my favorite part because it's such a great and unexpected moment of internal rhyming.  Not only is the message lovely, but it's set to a lively Welsh tune that makes me smile.  Here's a video to give you an idea of how it sounds when sung:

And just because I love the hammered dulcimer, here's a rendition of the tune alone on that enchanting instrument:

That's my submission for this month -- I hope you enjoyed it! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Horatio -- A Guest Post by Kelda

by Kelda

Shakespeare gives us complex characters, though sometimes he challenges us to work at getting to know them.  Hamlet is the best known of them. Is he mad? Antic? But lost in Hamlet's shadow is his friend Horatio.

"Detective Horatio" by Laura Guzzo.
Prints available here on Etsy.

Scholars and critics usually simply list him as "Hamlet's friend." The role is relatively small, yet one scholar noted that if the role is played uncut and as Shakespeare intended, he is the only character that cannot be doubled. One critic wrote that Horatio's part is to stand around in every room until someone tells him to leave. In a particular scene, he may have no lines but he is present, as a witness to the evolving events. 

(Kenneth Branagh and Nicholas Farrell, 1996)

Where does he come from? Taking his self-described 'antique Roman', and Shakespeare's tendency to refer to other plays within plays -- like the references to Julius Caesar within Hamlet -- and realizing that Hamlet underestimates his 'poor' status (a pauper would not be at Wittenberg), I decided he was from Venice from one of the merchant classes (Merchant of Venice ~smile~) -- from a family of perhaps wine importers, book binders, or glass blowers. 
(Campbell Scott and John Benjamin Hickey, 2000)

What does Shakespeare tell us? Not much. Initially, Horatio joins the soldiers on the battlements. They tell him that an apparition like the late King has appeared to them. He is a scholar, and perhaps it will speak to him. He replies, "Tush, tush, 'twill not appear." This is the first hint of his character. He does not believe in ghosts, and there is reference to his not being a Dane. But when the ghost does appear, Horatio confesses it "harrows me with fear and wonder.... Before my God, I might not this believe without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes." Later, Hamlet chides him, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Some scholars brush this off as a generalized referral. "Your philosophy" just means "anyone's." That  completely ignores his later expanded description: 

"Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal'd thee for herself. For thou hast been
As one, in suff'ring all, that suffers nothing;
A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks; and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee" (III, 2).

This description, together with Horatio's self declaration, "I am more an antique Roman than a Dane," pinpoint his philosophy. He is a Stoic, an early Roman school up through the time of Marcus Aurelius. The English word entered the language in the late 1570's, so Shakespeare may not have had the term for it, but Hamlet's definition is accurate. A Stoic maintains a balanced acceptance of his/her life, and strives to live within the balance of Nature. Being rich may be preferable to being poor... the preference is neither good nor bad. Wealth or power or influence are not things to strive for. One should stand up to what befalls her/him in life. There is an Undivided Universe, and in its totality is the concept of God. This infinite Deity is associated with the element of fire. In great cycles, all corporeal being is destroyed by fire. The fire then lies dormant for eons, and is seen as the seed that generates the next cycle of being. In rare circumstances, suicide is permissible -- specifically in situations that can no longer be lived in balance with Nature. Horatio, reaching that point, prefers suicide, but Hamlet gives him a reason to live. 

A Stoic, and therefore Horatio, is not without humor. It's fun to catch him in his little prods and pokes against his friend. Hamlet tells him, "There's never a villain dwelling in all Denmark but he's an errant knave," and Horatio retorts, "There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave to tell us this." When Hamlet is romping wildly after the Play within the play, he demands whether he should earn a share in an acting company. Horatio answers, "Half a share," and tells him he "might have rhymed" his improvised lines. He is amused by Hamlet's exchange with Osric. When Hamlet demands to know the meaning of "carriages" with reference to the bet in the duel, Horatio laughs and says, "I knew you must be edified by the margent ere you had done," described in the glossary as 'I knew you would sooner or later have to have text notes in the margin to follow him.'

(Jude Law and Matt Ryan, 2004)

Horatio is honest to a fault. When Hamlet tells him of the fate of R&G, he is troubled, "So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to't." When the Prince accepts the duel, Horatio objects: "You will lose  this wager, my lord." Remember Hamlet telling R&G that he has foregone "exercises?" Now he protests that he has been "in continual practice" in Laertes' absence. He does reluctantly admit "all's ill hereabout my heart." Horatio immediately answers, "If your mind dislike anything, do it not. I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit." I wish we knew more about his thoughts here. There is no reason to be suspicious of the duel being anything other than a practice, and as Hamlet says, there is nothing to lose but the "odd hits." But Horatio, like Hamlet, feels something ill, and it is far more alarming than a mere fencing encounter.

Spoilers ahead, if you have not finished the play: In almost every production, the final scene is Horatio kneeling, cradling his dying friend in his arms, rocked to the soul by Hamlet's refusal to allow him to commit suicide. A director who mishandles this scene should be fired. We meet Horatio in the first act and leave him here in the last one.

(David Tennant and Peter De Jersey, 2009)

What the kids have to say about it. :^) My kids are annoyed by my obsession with Hamlet. One day, waiting at a Friendly's for our banana splits, they decided that it really wasn't fair that Horatio got to live (or maybe that he had to do so), so they began to come up with an alternate ending. The survivors are at a funeral banquet when they are suddenly visited by a Green Alien Space Monkey that is hungry. Horatio is just finishing the last banana, so the GASM kills him. And now everybody is dead, so stop talking about it!!!


(PS. ~grin~ Ask Hamlette about her GASM.)

(Hamlette's note:  Thanks so much for this wonderful character sketch of Horatio!  You know him better than anyone I've ever encountered, and I'm so privileged to share some of your thoughts here.  Alas, my Green Attack Space Monkey has returned to the mother ship, but here are the rest of the awesome Hamlet clothespin dolls you made me so long ago!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 2

Another short scene!  Don't these make you feel productive?  "What did you do today?"  "Read a scene from Hamlet."  No one needs to know it was only a page and a half long!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern accost Hamlet and try to get him to tell them where he's hidden Polonius' body.  Hamlet resumes his antic ways, verbally sparring with them, playing with words, and not being at all cooperative.  He ends with "Hide fox, and all after," whereon most productions have him run away and them chase him, like grown men playing tag.

Remember in the post for Act III, Scene 2 that I mentioned I'd just learned that "thing" and "nothing" were used in Shakespeare's day as euphemism's for men and women's "naughty bits" (to toss in a Monty Python euphemism).  As soon as I learned that, I immediately thought of the end of this scene, when Hamlet says, "The King is a thing" (24).  I don't know enough about slang in Shakespeare's day to know if this is true or not, and this is totally my own reading/idea here, but might Hamlet be using the word "thing" here the same way we would say "jerk," or several other less-savory modern euphemisms that people today use to describe people who are being jerks?  And then saying he's "of nothing" would seem to be a reference to Claudius' seduction of Gertrude to secure the throne, perhaps?  I don't know, it just makes this passage make more sense in a way, because "the King is a thing" is so random and pointless otherwise, and Hamlet's words, wild and whirling though they may be, are rarely pointless.

Favorite Lines:

"A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear" (20).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think Rosencrantz really didn't understand Hamlet calling him a sponge, or is he just angry and frustrated with this antic, deadly prince?

Can you think of a different reading of "the king is a thing" that also makes sense?  Or is Hamlet just being super-random in his feigned madness there?