EPISODE 49 - BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF WIT

TEXT:

POLONIUS
This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief: your noble son is mad.
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.

GERTRUDE
More matter, with less art.

POLONIUS
Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
And pity 'tis 'tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause:
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus. Perpend.
I have a daughter - have while she is mine - 
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this: now gather, and surmise.

Reads

'To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most
beautified Ophelia...'
That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase - 'beautified' is
a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:

Reads

'In her excellent white bosom, these, etc.'

GERTRUDE
Came this from Hamlet to her?

POLONIUS
Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.

NOTES:

UPSTART CROW
Greenes, Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance (1592) is a tract published as the work of the deceased playwright Robert Greene. It is studded with references to other playwrights and writers who were contemporaries of Greene, and is most famous for its reference to Shakespeare as an "upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." There's currently a BBC sitcom called after the slander - Upstart Crow will have a new season in late 2018. 
 

 

EPISODE 48 - REBUKE FROM NORWAY

TEXT:

VOLTIMAND
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew's levies; which to him appeared
To be a preparation against the Polack;
But, better looked into, he truly found
It was against your highness: whereat grieved,
That so his sickness, age and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys;
Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack:
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
Giving a paper
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.

CLAUDIUS
It likes us well;
And at our more consider'd time well read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour:
Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together:
Most welcome home!

Exeunt VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS.

 

NOTES:

POLACK
In contemporary English, the nouns Polack or Polak are ethnic slurs and derogatory references to a Polish person, of a person of Polish descent. It is an Anglicisation of the Polish masculine noun Polak, which denotes a Polish male or a person of Polish ethnicity and unspecified gender. However, in English the word is now considered an ethnic slur, and is considered insulting in nearly all contemporary usages. The neutral English language noun for a Polish person (male or female) is Pole. 

EPISODE 47 - THE TRAIL OF POLICY

TEXT:

Enter POLONIUS

POLONIUS
The ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully return'd.

CLAUDIUS
Thou still hast been the father of good news.

POLONIUS
Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege,
I hold my duty, as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious king:
And I do think, or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath used to do, that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.

CLAUDIUS
O, speak of that; that do I long to hear.

POLONIUS
Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.

CLAUDIUS
Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.

Exit POLONIUS

He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
The head and source of all your son's distemper.

GERTRUDE
I doubt it is no other but the main;
His father's death, and our o'erhasty marriage.

CLAUDIUS
Well, we shall sift him.

Re-enter POLONIUS, with VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS

Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?

EPISODE 46 - THANKS GUILDENSTERN, AND GENTLE ROSENCRANTZ

TEXT:

 

QUEEN GERTRUDE
Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd of you;
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile,
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king's remembrance.

ROSENCRANTZ
                                            Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.

GUILDENSTERN
                        
But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.

KING CLAUDIUS
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

QUEEN GERTRUDE
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz:
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

GUILDENSTERN
Heavens make our presence and our practises
Pleasant and helpful to him!

QUEEN GERTRUDE
Ay, amen!

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and some Attendants

EPISODE 45 - WELCOME, DEAR ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN

TEXT:

SCENE II. A room in the castle.

Enter CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and Attendants

CLAUDIUS
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet's transformation; so call it,
Sith nor the exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be,
More than his father's death, that thus hath put him
So much from the understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of: I entreat you both,
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And sith so neighbour'd to his youth and havior,
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time: so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus,
That, opened, lies within our remedy.

NOTES:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Tom Stoppard's play premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1966. It was eventually made into a film starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, and had a recent West End revival at the Old Vic, starring Daniel Radcliffe. You can watch the trailer for the recent version here.
 

Tycho Brahe Portrait
Here is the portrait of the Danish astronomer, surrounded by his ancestors and family relations. The names at the centre are those of his father, Brahe and mother, Bille. Moving around the picture from the bottom left, the names read: Gyldenstern, Kahbiller, Markeman, Axellsønner, Rosenkrans (Rosenkrantz), Longer, Ruder, Brahe, Bille, Ulfstander, Rønnor, Troller, Longer, Rosenspar, Storawase, and Axellsønner.

 

EPISODE 44 - DESPERATE UNDERTAKINGS

TEXT:

POLONIUS
Come, go with me: I will go seek the king.
This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fordoes itself
And leads the will to desperate undertakings
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures. I am sorry.
What, have you given him any hard words of late?

OPHELIA
No, my good lord, but, as you did command,
I did repel his fetters and denied
His access to me.

POLONIUS
                          That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him. I feared he did but trifle,
And meant to wrack thee; but beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king:
This must be known, which, being kept close, might move
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.

Exeunt

 

NOTES:

Scene Lengths
The longest scene in all of Shakespeare is Love's Labour's Lost Act 5, Scene 2. It's followed by Act 4 Scene 4 of The Winter's Tale, and then Act 2 Scene 2 of Hamlet. The division of scenes is far more an editor's than a theatre maker's domain, since of course a production can choose to separate and subdivide the actions of a scene in performance. 

EPISODE 43 - MAD FOR THY LOVE

TEXT:

Enter OPHELIA

POLONIUS
How now, Ophelia! what's the matter?

OPHELIA
O, my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!

POLONIUS
With what, i' the name of God?

OPHELIA
My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,
No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
Ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle,
Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors - he comes before me.

POLONIUS
Mad for thy love?

OPHELIA
                       My lord, I do not know;
But truly, I do fear it.

POLONIUS
                             What said he?

OPHELIA
He took me by the wrist and held me hard:
Then goes he to the length of all his arm,
And, with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face
As he would draw it. Long stayed he so:
At last, a little shaking of mine arm
And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
As it did seem to shatter all his bulk
And end his being. That done, he lets me go,
And, with his head over his shoulder turned,
He seemed to find his way without his eyes,
For out o' doors he went without their helps,
And, to the last, bended their light on me.

EPISODE 42 - YOUR BAIT OF FALSEHOOD TAKES THIS CARP OF TRUTH

TEXT:

POLONIUS (continued)
You laying these slight sullies on my son,
As 'twere a thing a little soil'd i' the working, Mark you,
Your party in converse, him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
He closes with you in this consequence;
'Good sir,' or so, or 'friend,' or 'gentleman,'
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and country. (continued)

REYNALDO
Very good, my lord.

POLONIUS
And then, sir, does he this--he does--what was I
about to say? By the mass, I was about to say
something: where did I leave?

REYNALDO
At 'closes in the consequence,' at 'friend or so,'
and 'gentleman.'

POLONIUS
At 'closes in the consequence,' ay, marry;
He closes thus: 'I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t' other day,
Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,
There was a' gaming; there o'ertook in's rouse;
There falling out at tennis:' or perchance,
'I saw him enter such a house of sale,'
Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth.
See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out:
So by my former lecture and advice,
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?

REYNALDO
My lord, I have.

POLONIUS
God be wi' you; fare you well.

REYNALDO
Good my lord!

POLONIUS
Observe his inclination in yourself.

REYNALDO
I shall, my lord.

POLONIUS
And let him ply his music.

REYNALDO
Well, my lord.

POLONIUS
Farewell!

Exit REYNALDO

EPISODE 41 - YOU MAY GO SO FAR

TEXT:

POLONIUS (continued)
...marry, none so rank
As may dishonour him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.

REYNALDO
As gaming, my lord.

POLONIUS
Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing: you may go so far.

REYNALDO
My lord, that would dishonour him.

POLONIUS
'Faith, no, as you may season it in the charge
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency;
That's not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.

REYNALDO
But, my good lord...

POLONIUS
Wherefore should you do this?

REYNALDO
Ay, my lord,
I would know that.

POLONIUS
Marry, sir, here's my drift - 
And I believe, it is a fetch of wit.

EPISODE 40 - DO YOU MARK THIS, REYNALDO?

TEXT:

ACT TWO: SCENE I. A room in POLONIUS' house.

Enter POLONIUS and REYNALDO

POLONIUS
Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.

REYNALDO
I will, my lord.

POLONIUS
You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.

REYNALDO
My lord, I did intend it.

POLONIUS
Marry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it:
Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him;
As thus, 'I know his father and his friends,
And in part him: ' do you mark this, Reynaldo?

REYNALDO
Ay, very well, my lord.

POLONIUS
'And in part him; but' you may say 'not well:
But, if't be he I mean, he's very wild;
Addicted, so and so:' and there put on him
What forgeries you please.


NOTES:
Entrances and Exits

There's an extraordinary study by Professor Mariko Ichikawa on the subject of 'Shakespearean Entrances'. While of course academia can sometimes feel like an ever-contracting nightmare of diligent students writing more and more about less and less, I have to say that this specific, particular, focused study - one of many brilliant books by Prof. Ichikawa - has really been making me think of late. Check it out! 

Danskers
Here's a really obscure reference. So obscure, in fact, that I couldn't in good faith write it into the text of the episode... Shakespeare has Polonius refer to the Danish ex-pats in Paris as 'Danskers' - presumably a little flourish trying to make Polonius sound like the Danish politician he is. In modern Danish, this is absolutely the correct word. BUT in fact, our dear Bard is somewhat mistaken. While he was writing, Dansker meant something coming from Gdansk (or Danzig) - a city in what is now Poland. In Shakespeare's time it was a Danish settlement, and that is where its name comes from. You'll be delighted to know that there's an entire book dedicated to Shakespeare and Scandinavia, which goes into splendid detail about the literary correlations between Denmark and Gdansk in the English imagination. 

 

EPISODE 39 - MORE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH

TEXT:

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come;
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we would,'
Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they might,'
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!
So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let's go together.

Exeunt

NOTES:

Wittenberg
The city of Wittenberg is in central Germany, and was one of the most important cities in Saxony. As well as its fame as having been home to the university that Hamlet studied at, it was also the site of Martin Luther's dramatic revolt against the indulgences in the church in 1517 (less than a hundred years before Shakespeare wrote the play.) Wittenberg is also the home, in Christopher Marlowe's play, of his title character Doctor Faustus

EPISODE 38 - HIC ET UBIQUE

TEXT:

HORATIO & MARCELLUS
My lord, we will not.

HAMLET
Nay, but swear't.

HORATIO
In faith,
My lord, not I.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord, in faith.

HAMLET
Upon my sword.

MARCELLUS
We have sworn, my lord, already.

HAMLET
Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Ah, ha, boy! say'st thou so? art thou there,
truepenny?
Come on--you hear this fellow in the cellarage--
Consent to swear.

HORATIO
Propose the oath, my lord.

HAMLET
Never to speak of this that you have seen,
Swear by my sword.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Hic et ubique? then we'll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Well said, old mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

NOTES:

STAGECRAFT
There haven't been a great many satisfactory books written about stagecraft, entrances and exits in Shakespeare - but the best scholarship I've encountered on the subject has been the work of Mariko Ichikawa. She has written three superb books on the subject. 

HIC ET UBIQUE
There are various suggestions as to what the significance of this phrase might mean. Hic et ubique means 'here and everywhere' in Latin - referring to the property of being able to exist in a particular place and also be everywhere at the same time. 

EPISODE 37 - YES BY SAINT PATRICK!

TEXT:

MARCELLUS
How is't, my noble lord?

HORATIO
What news, my lord?

HAMLET
O, wonderful!

HORATIO
Good my lord, tell it.

HAMLET
No; you'll reveal it.

HORATIO
Not I, my lord, by heaven.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord.

HAMLET
How say you, then; would heart of man once think it?
But you'll be secret?

HORATIO MARCELLUS
Ay, by heaven, my lord.

HAMLET
There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
But he's an arrant knave.

HORATIO
There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

HAMLET
Why, right; you are i' the right;
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part:
You, as your business and desire shall point you;
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray.

HORATIO
These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

HAMLET
I'm sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, 'faith heartily.

HORATIO
There's no offence, my lord.

HAMLET
Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you:
For your desire to know what is between us,
O'ermaster 't as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.

HORATIO
What is't, my lord? we will.

HAMLET
Never make known what you have seen to-night.

NOTES:

Purgatory (repost)
According to the Catholic Church, Purgatory is an intermediate state after death, between Heaven and Hell. Merriam Webster defines it rather neatly as a place  "for expiatory purification; specifically : a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven". It is very significant to Shakespeare's construction of Hamlet's theology (or, indeed, 'philosophy'.) The greatest poet to deal with Purgatory was Dante, in The Divine Comedy - although it appears very likely that Shakespeare never read Dante. (The Italian poet was not translated into English until the 18th Century). Dante conceptualised Purgatory as existing somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Rather closer to home for Shakespeare, there was reputedly an entrance to Purgatory on Station Island in Lough Derg, in the north west of Ireland. Pilgrims have been visiting this place for almost 1500 years. 

EPISODE 36 - SMILE and SMILE and BE A VILLAIN

TEXT:

HAMLET (continued)
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,
Unmixed with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damnéd villain!
My tables - meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:

Writing

So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't.

 

HORATIO
[Within] My lord, my lord,--

MARCELLUS
[Within] Lord Hamlet,--

HORATIO
[Within] Heaven secure him!

HAMLET
So be it.

HORATIO
[Within] Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!

HAMLET
Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.

Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS

 

NOTES:

TABLES
Hamlet's reference to the tablets (tables) of his mind constitute an image of which Shakespeare seems to have been rather fond. He makes extensive use of it in Sonnet 122 - which I've included below.
122
Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full character'd with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain
Beyond all date, even to eternity; 
Or at the least, so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to razed oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be miss'd. 
That poor retention could not so much hold, 
Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score; 
Therefore to give them from me was I bold, 
To trust those tables that receive thee more: 
   To keep an adjunct to remember thee
   Were to import forgetfulness in me.

OH!
I wrote a whole extended introduction to today's episode about the word Oh and the way Shakespeare uses it within the texts of his plays. I've saved it and it'll show up in the not-too-distant future at a more appropriate moment. For now, suffice it to mention that it's the 3rd most frequent word in the whole play - after Lord and Good!

Falconry
Shakespeare absolutely loved birds - not at all surprising for someone who grew up in the 16th century countryside. According to Caroline Spurgeon in her matchless book Shakespeare's Imagery, "He has more images of riding and of bird-snaring and falconry than of any other forms of outdoor sport, and in both these groups there is evidence of personal experience." No surprise, then, that even in so tiny a moment as Horatio's reappearance up on the battlements, there's a small nod to birds and hunting.

EPISODE 35 - ADIEU, HAMLET, REMEMBER ME

TEXT:

GHOST (continued)
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.

Exit

HAMLET
O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! 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!

NOTES:

Matins
In the life of a medieval monastery, the day was divided by the various prayers and observances. The entire system of marking the day with prayers appropriate to different times was known as the Breviary. A Book of Hours would contain all of the appropriate prayers through the day. The sequence was Matins (very late in the night or when the cock crowed), Lauds (at Dawn), various prayers at the third, sixth and ninth hours, then more prayers at the middle of the day, to be followed by Vespers in the evening and Compline before retiring to bed. This arrangement of daily prayers is attributed to Saint Benedict.

Sinews
I would dearly love to have some kind of fascinating reason for Shakespeare being interested in the operations of the sinews in the human body, stemming from an event or medical discovery that happened in or around 1598 or 1599. If you know of one, I'd be thrilled to hear about it!

EPISODE 34 - BY A BROTHER'S HAND

TEXT:

Ghost (continued)

Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter barked about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatched:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!

 

NOTES:

Iambic Pentameter
The basic rhythm of all of Shakespeare's dramatic verse is iambic pentameter - a line of five feet (a pentameter) usually made of five iambs. An iamb is a combination of an unstressed syllable and a stressed syllable. The example used in this episode is 'champagne'. The reverse of an iamb is a trochee - a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. The example from this episode was 'never'. 

Feminine Endings
We already discussed feminine endings in an earlier episode, and you can check out the notes for it here.

Last Rites
The Ghost laments that he was sent from this life with "all his imperfections" on his head. Although not one of the official seven sacraments, the group of ceremonial comforts known as the last rites included the opportunity to confess one's sins (and thereby enter a state of grace), the opportunity to receive Holy Communion, and the opportunity to receive extreme unction, also known as the anointing of the sick. This last is one of the seven sacraments, usually only made available to someone in severe medical need. The Ghost makes reference to all of these in his speech. 'Unhouseled' means 'without having received the host' - also known by the archiac word 'housel'. Comparably, 'unaneled' (which appears in various spellings across different editors' texts) means 'without having been anointed'. So, the Ghost was in no way spiritually comforted or prepared for death.

Vinegar
The word vinegar basically means sour wine - having come to English via French and Middle English. (The Latin words vinum and acer - wine and sour - found their way via vin and egre or aigre into the word as we know it today.) In this text Shakespeare expands and contracts the word to be 'eager' - which echoes the violent, mercurial speed of the poison and of course refers to the acidic liquid that will turn milk sour. Rather clever, isn't it?

EPISODE 33 - THAT ADULTERATE BEAST

TEXT:

Ghost
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts - 
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce! - won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be...

NOTES:

INCEST
As discussed back in Episode 15, incest would have been a contentious topic in Shakespeare's England - particularly when the incest instance of a man marrying his dead brother's wife. (This had happened when Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon.) 

GARBAGE
In Shakespeare's usage, garbage had a much fouler meaning, to do with offal and entrails. It still meant worthless material, as today, but likening Claudius to such foulness is a direct attack. 

EPISODE 32 - MURDER MOST FOUL

TEXT:

Ghost
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love--

HAMLET
O God!

Ghost
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

HAMLET
Murder!

Ghost
Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

HAMLET
Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

Ghost
I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.

HAMLET
O my prophetic soul! My uncle!

 

NOTES: 

LETHE
Lethe was one of several rivers in the Greek underworld. Although Shakespeare is perhaps giving a nod to the Ferryman Charon (he who brought the newly-departed souls across from Life to Death), his wharf and his Ferry were not across the Lethe, but across the Styx. This was the main river of the Underworld, and encircled it seven times. In other accounts, Charon ferries the dead across the river Acheron, which was the river of Pain. Souls were judged in the Underworld by Rhadamanthus and his brothers, and it was their job to decide whether the soul would go to the Isles of the Blessed, the Fields of Asphodel or to the hellish Tartarus. Those headed for the latter would travel there via the river Phelgethon, the river of Fire. The other river of the Underworld was the River Cocytus, which was the river of wailing, or tears. Shakespeare mentions Lethe more than any of the other rivers, but he does make reference to the Styx, to Cocytus and to Acheron. (No surprises that all three are mentioned in Titus Andronicus, which has so much to say about the dead...) . Phlegethon is not mentioned by him anywhere - perhaps he imagined the word might be hard to say at speed...! 

 

Episode 31 - I Am Thy Father's Spirit

TEXT:

SCENE V. Another part of the platform.

Enter GHOST and HAMLET

HAMLET
Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further.

Ghost
Mark me.

HAMLET
I will.

Ghost
My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

HAMLET
Alas, poor ghost!

Ghost
Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.

HAMLET
Speak; I am bound to hear.

Ghost
So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.

HAMLET
What?

Ghost
I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.

 

NOTES:

Purgatory
According to the Catholic Church, Purgatory is an intermediate state after death, between Heaven and Hell. Merriam Webster defines it rather neatly as a place  "for expiatory purification; specifically : a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven". It is very significant to Shakespeare's construction of Hamlet's theology (or, indeed, 'philosophy'.) The greatest poet to deal with Purgatory was Dante, in The Divine Comedy - although it appears very likely that Shakespeare never read Dante. (The Italian poet was not translated into English until the 18th Century). Dante conceptualised Purgatory as existing somewhere in the southern hemisphere. Rather closer to home for Shakespeare, there was reputedly an entrance to Purgatory on Station Island in Lough Derg, in the north west of Ireland. Pilgrims have been visiting this place for almost 1500 years. 

Revenge
As we discussed earlier, the Ghost clamouring for revenge was the most memorable part of whatever earlier version of the story existed on the Elizabethan stage. Shakespeare has the Ghost mention it rather quickly, before he waxes lyrical about how much he cannot speak about his place in Purgatory. Revenge will appear a great deal from now on - the Ghost has let it out of the bag, as it were. 

 

Episode 30 - Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark

TEXT:

HORATIO
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? Think of it:
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.

HAMLET
It waves me still. Go on; I'll follow thee.

MARCELLUS
You shall not go, my lord.

HAMLET
                                         Hold off your hands.

HORATIO
Be ruled; you shall not go.

HAMLET
                                           My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say away! Go on! I'll follow thee.

Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET

HORATIO
He waxes desperate with imagination.

MARCELLUS
Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.

HORATIO
Have after. To what issue will this come?

MARCELLUS
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

HORATIO
Heaven will direct it.

MARCELLUS
                                Nay, let's follow him.

 

Exeunt

NOTES:

Madness
Whether Hamlet is mad or just playing the part is a question that has generated millions and millions of words over the centuries. We will have plenty to say on the matter - but it's worth marking here that Horatio's mention is the first time in the play that the idea has surfaced. 

Cliffs
Cliffs appear often in Shakespeare - often with the epithet 'chalky' attached. In Horatio's worry about Hamlet getting giddy and falling off the edge, Shakespeare gives voice to a peculiar human habit of fantasising about the dangers while standing on a cliff. In King Lear, the startling scene between Gloucester and Edgar likewise plays on the human imagination and the fear of being on the edge. 

Nemean Lion
The Nemean Lion was the first of the Twelve Labours of Hercules - and it became the hero's personal signature garment. Because the lion's skin was impermeable and his claws invincible, the story goes that Hercules (Herakles in Greek) had to strangle the beast to death. A variant suggests that he shot an arrow into its mouth. When he was trying to skin the beast's corpse, he likewise had difficulty making any impact, until the thought struck him that he should use the animal's own claws for the job!