Episode 96 - Pickers and Stealers

TEXT:

HAMLET
Sir, I cannot.

GUILDENSTERN
What, my lord?

HAMLET
Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased: but,
sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command;
or, rather, as you say, my mother: therefore no
more, but to the matter: my mother, you say?

ROSENCRANTZ
Then thus she says; your behavior hath struck her
into amazement and admiration.

HAMLET
O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But
is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's
admiration? Impart.

ROSENCRANTZ
She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you
go to bed.

HAMLET
We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
you any further trade with us?

ROSENCRANTZ
My lord, you once did love me.

HAMLET
So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.

ROSENCRANTZ
Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if
you deny your griefs to your friend.

HAMLET
Sir, I lack advancement.

ROSENCRANTZ
How can that be, when you have the voice of the king
himself for your succession in Denmark?

HAMLET
Ay, but sir, 'While the grass grows…' - the proverb
is something musty.

NOTES:

The Book of Common Prayer
Originally published in 1549 , The Book of Common Prayer was a major project of the English Reformation - the first publication ever to include all of the prayers and offices of religious service in English. It is still a key part of Protestant worship all over the world. Within it was a catechism, which is an introduction of the terms of religious doctrine. The catechism would be learned by rote, and was written as a series of questions. The segment that Hamlet is quoting is an explanation of the meaning of the 8th Commandent, “thou shalt not steal”. After the explanation of each commandment’s teaching, there came a sequence of questions and specific quotations from the Bible that were used to back up each text. For our segment the question is “How do you prove it your duty to keep your hands from picking and stealing?” The answers come from Ephesians iv. 28 “Let him that stole steal no more”, and Thessalonians iv. 6 “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter”. Horatio probably understands all of this but it seems that the reference is utterly lost on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

EPISODE 95 - Far More Choler

TEXT:

Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

GUILDENSTERN
Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.

HAMLET
Sir, a whole history.

GUILDENSTERN
The king, sir…

HAMLET
Ay, sir, what of him?

GUILDENSTERN
Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.

HAMLET
With drink, sir?

GUILDENSTERN
No, my lord, rather with choler.

HAMLET
Your wisdom should show itself more richer to
signify this to his doctor; for for me to put him
to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far
more choler.

GUILDENSTERN
Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame and
start not so wildly from my affair.

HAMLET
I am tame, sir: pronounce.

GUILDENSTERN
The queen, your mother, in most great affliction of
spirit, hath sent me to you.

HAMLET
You are welcome.

GUILDENSTERN
Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right
breed. If it shall please you to make me a
wholesome answer, I will do your mother's
commandment: if not, your pardon and my return
shall be the end of my business.

NOTES:

The Humours
The four humours date back at least to medicine in the time of Hippocrates. Ancient Greek medicine identified four humours - black bile (whose name in Greek gives us the word melancholy), yellow bile, phlegm and blood. Galen suggested that an excess of any of these led to one of four personality types as mentioned in the episode - melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic and sanguine. Although rejected by most of modern medicine, in this breakdown we do have the seeds that grew into personality indicators like the Meyers-Briggs test and its many off-shoots.

EPISODE 94 - LET THE STRICKEN DEER GO WEEP

TEXT:

LUCIANUS
Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing;
Confederate season, else no creature seeing;
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp immediately.

Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears

HAMLET
He poisons him in the garden for's estate. His
name's Gonzago. The story is extant, and writ in
choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer
gets the love of Gonzago's wife.

OPHELIA
The king rises.

HAMLET
What, frighted with false fire!

GERTRUDE
How fares my lord?

POLONIUS
Give o'er the play.

CLAUDIUS
Give me some light: away!

ALL
Lights, lights, lights!

Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO

HAMLET
Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers - if
the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me - with two
Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a
fellowship in a cry of players, sir?

HORATIO
Half a share.

HAMLET
A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very… pajock.

HORATIO
You might have rhymed.

HAMLET
O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a
thousand pound. Didst perceive?

HORATIO
Very well, my lord.

HAMLET
Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HORATIO
I did very well note him.

HAMLET
Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!

NOTES:

Hecate
Hecate was the ancient Greek goddess of magic, witchcraft, ghosts, necromancy and nighttime. She appears in a scene of Macbeth when the witches conjure her and dance with her before Macbeth appears.

Theatrical attire
Hamlet here alludes to rather fancy clothing as a requirement for joining a theatre company; he suggests that he would need a forest of feathers (presumably an extravagantly plumed hat) and “provincial” (aka French, or Provençal) roses embroidered on his fashionable “razed” shoes. This might be something worth incorporating into a production’s costume design - the Players could arrive in dramatic fashion with such elements in their attire, so that these lines make more sense when Hamlet reaches them.

Damon & Pythias
Typifying the classical ideal of platonic friendship, Damon and Pythias appear throughout western literature as the best of friends. There was an early Elizabethan play about them by Richard Edwardes, and they crop out throughout the European canon. The story goes that Pythias was arrested for plotting against Dionysius of Syracuse. Pythias begged to be allowed to leave the prison to settle his affairs, on condition that Damon be arrested and incarcerated in his stead. (And, if Pythias absconded, the deal was that Damon could likewise be executed in his stead.) When Pythias did indeed return, Dionysius was so impressed in the trust between the two friends that he released them both.

EPISODE 93 - THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH

TEXT:

HAMLET
If she should break it now!


Player King
'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile;
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.

Sleeps

Player Queen
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!

Exit

HAMLET
Madam, how like you this play?

GERTRUDE
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

HAMLET
O, but she'll keep her word.

CLAUDIUS
Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in 't?

HAMLET
No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence
i' the world.

CLAUDIUS
What do you call the play?

HAMLET
The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play
is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is
the duke's name; his wife, Baptista: you shall see
anon; 'tis a knavish piece of work: but what o'
that? your majesty and we that have free souls, it
touches us not: let the galled jade wince, our
withers are unwrung.

Enter LUCIANUS

This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.

OPHELIA
You are as good as a chorus, my lord.

HAMLET
I could interpret between you and your love, if I
could see the puppets dallying.

OPHELIA
You are keen, my lord, you are keen.

HAMLET
It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.

OPHELIA
Still better, and worse.

HAMLET
So you must take your husbands. Begin, murderer;
pox, leave thy damnable faces, and begin. Come:
“the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.”

NOTES:
Jade
This is particularly impressive wordplay from Shakespeare. Jade is a word for a tired horse, but it also means to tire (as in, ‘jaded’) - and there’s a secondary meaning that he slips in - for sheer malice - of a fallen woman being a jade. So, there’s a variety of possibilities for Hamlet to score points with this curious little line.

Proverbs
Shakespeare’s plays feature a great many proverbs and then-recognisable turns of phrase. Sometimes they can seem arcane and meaningless today, but very often they are sayings that Shakespeare’s audience would have understood. The instance in this episode is a discussion of a tired horse that “winces” (or kicks!) when it is approached. It’s a very clear image for Hamlet to use against Claudius, himself weary with the weight of his guilt. Hamlet’s hope is that just a little prod from him will make the king snap. (For a complete index of Shakespeare’s Proverbial Language, there’s a splendid book compiled by Robert Dent).

EPISODE 92 - DIE THY THOUGHTS

TEXT:

Player King (continued)
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend;
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.

Player Queen
Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope!
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!

NOTES:
Anchor(ite)
According to Wikipedia, an anchorite (female: anchoress) is someone who “for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, or Eucharist-focused life.” It comes from the Greek ἀναχωρητής, anachoritis, "one who has retired from the world". They were at their most significant numbers during the 13th century, and again such a mention within this play-within-the-play harks back to an older, Catholic world.

EPISODE 91 - WHAT WE DO DETERMINE OFT WE BREAK

TEXT:

Player King
I do believe you think what now you speak;
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree;
But fall, unshaken, when they mellow be.
Most necessary 'tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt:
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures with themselves destroy:
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.

EPISODE 90 - WORMWOOD

TEXT:

Player Queen
So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count o'er ere love be done!
But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must:
For women's fear and love holds quantity;
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is sized, my fear is so:
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.

Player King
'Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
My operant powers their functions leave to do:
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour'd, beloved; and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou-

Player Queen
O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast:
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill'd the first.

HAMLET[Aside]
Wormwood, wormwood.

Player Queen
The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love:
A second time I kill my husband dead,
When second husband kisses me in bed.

NOTES:
Wormwood
Wormwood (artemisia herba-alba) is a notoriously bitter herb. It is mentioned several times in the Bible, particularly for its bitterness, and likewise appears in Romeo and Juliet used by the nurse to wean a child. Hamlet mentions it because he’s imagining that what’s being said onstage must leave a bitter taste in his mother’s mouth.

EPISODE 89 - IS THIS A PROLOGUE?

TEXT:

Enter Prologue

HAMLET
We shall know by this fellow: the players cannot
keep counsel; they'll tell all.

OPHELIA
Will he tell us what this show meant?

HAMLET
Ay, or any show that you'll show him: be not you
ashamed to show, he'll not shame to tell you what it means.

OPHELIA
You are naught, you are naught: I'll mark the play.

Prologue
For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.
Exit

HAMLET
Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?

OPHELIA
'Tis brief, my lord.

HAMLET
As woman's love.

Enter two Players, King and Queen

Player King
Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,
And thirty dozen moons with borrow'd sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been,
Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.

NOTES:

Prologue
The Dumb Show was quite enough of an introduction for this play, and so a second intro happens in the form of a prologue. Most famous from plays like Romeo and Juliet and Henry V (in which it’s performed by the ‘Chorus’) a prologue is a simple introduction to the story of a play. Here it is comically short, and Hamlet mocks its brevity.

Phoebus
Phoebus was one of the most common epithets given to the god Apollo. It means “bright”. Apollo was one of the most important gods of the ancient world - so important that his name did not change in the transfer of names between Greek and Roman worship. (He is the only god whose name was never changed.) As Bright Apollo, he is associated with the Sun, and here the word Phoebus alone stands for him in his chariot, blazing across the sky.

Neptune
Known in Greek as Poseidon, Neptune was the god of the sea. His salt wash, therefore, is the ocean.

Tellus
Less well-known than the ideas of gods of the sea or the sky, or indeed even Gaia, mother earth, Tellus (fully titled Tellus Mater) is a personification of the Earth. The combination between Neptune and Tellus is a very poetic way of describing planet earth - water and land.

Astronomy
Early in the play there are references to stars and cosmic events and (perhaps) the trials of European astronomers who were trying to prove that the earth was round and not flat. Shakespeare’s theatre was called The Globe, and so we can maybe assume that he was aware that the planet is not a disc. In this little segment of the text it’s fascinating that he combines the imagery of the ancient world (Phoebus, Neptune, Tellus) with the idea of the sun going around the earth over the course of the year. Obviously this is easy to overlook, but it’s an intriguing idea.

EPISODE 88 - THE HOBBYHORSE IS FORGOT

TEXT:

OPHELIA
You are merry, my lord.

HAMLET
Who, I?

OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.

HAMLET
O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do
but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my
mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.

OPHELIA
Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.

HAMLET
So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for
I'll have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two
months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's
hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half
a year: but, by'r lady, he must build churches,
then; or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with
the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is 'For, O, for, O,
the hobby-horse is forgot.'

Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters

Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love

Exeunt

OPHELIA
What means this, my lord?

HAMLET
Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.

OPHELIA
Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

NOTES:

Jig-Maker
This is another reference to Will Kemp, the great clown and dancer who had left Shakespeare’s company at the time of Hamlet’s composition. Since he was gone, there was nobody left to dance quite as well as Kemp, and so Hamlet (likely played by Burbage) would have had to cast himself as the jig-maker. It’s another cheeky reference from Shakespeare to his own real-life circumstances.

Hobbyhorse
The hobbyhorse was integral to May Day celebrations in medieval Catholic England. Referring to it here as having been forgotten, Hamlet is drawing our minds back to the older world of his father’s reign - already being replaced by Claudius’ new regime.

Dumb Show
A dumb show was a popular feature of 16th century English drama. Most often it introduces, summarizes or comments on the play’s main action - as happens during the play-within-the-play. The device appears as far back as the 1561 play Gorboduc, the first known play in blank verse, all the way up to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, which was a major influence on Hamlet. Shakespeare uses it here as a kind of a throwback, making the Players’ performance deliberately old-fashioned.

EPISODE 87 - COUNTRY MATTERS

TEXT:

HAMLET (To Polonius)
My lord, you played once i' the university, you say?

POLONIUS
That did I, my lord; and was accounted a good actor.

HAMLET
What did you enact?

POLONIUS
I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the
Capitol; Brutus killed me.

HAMLET
It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf
there. Be the players ready?

ROSENCRANTZ
Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.

GERTRUDE
Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

HAMLET
No, good mother, here's metal more attractive.

POLONIUS[To Claudius]
O, ho! do you mark that?

HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

Lies down at OPHELIA's feet

OPHELIA
No, my lord.

HAMLET
I mean, my head upon your lap?

OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.

HAMLET
Do you think I meant country matters?

OPHELIA
I think nothing, my lord.

HAMLET
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.

OPHELIA
What is, my lord?

HAMLET
Nothing.

NOTES:

Intertextuality
Intertextuality is an academic discourse that explores the conversations between texts - it is relevant here because Shakespeare’s audience would have recognised Shakespeare’s joke about Polonius having played Julius Caesar. The hint is that the same actor could very likely have played Polonius and Caesar - and indeed there are further correlations because both characters are stabbed.

The C Word
If Hamlet is being as unpleasant as we think he is, he’s hinting at one of the rudest words in the English language. The word was certainly in existence in Shakespeare’s time (as even the most rudimentary dictionary search will explain) but perhaps wasn’t quite as problematic a word as it (rightly) is today.

Episode 86 - The Chameleon's Dish

TEXT:

HAMLET (continued)

…if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

HORATIO
Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And 'scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

HAMLET
They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
Get you a place.

Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others

CLAUDIUS
How fares our cousin Hamlet?

HAMLET
Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish: I eat
the air, promise-crammed: you cannot feed capons so.

CLAUDIUS
I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words
are not mine.

HAMLET
No, nor mine now.

NOTES:

Vulcan
Vulcan was the Roman god of fire, blacksmiths, volcanoes and the like. The Romans believed that his forge - or stithy - was underneath the volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily. His Greek equivalent was Hephaistos.

Chameleon
Shakespeare refers to chameleons in only two other plays - Henry VI.3 and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as mentioned in the episode. In the latter play both of the references are to how the chameleon was believed to live on air alone - just as Hamlet also suggests. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to find any English images of the marvellous lizard, but this is an illustration from a French book from the 1570s with the marvellous name Des Monstres et Prodiges (Of Monsters and Prodigies) - fascinating to think that the drawing is a quarter of a century older than Hamlet.

EPISODE 85 - MY HEART OF HEART

TEXT:

Hamlet: (continued)

No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath sealed thee for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering 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. Something too much of this.
There is a play tonight before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father's death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle:

Episode 84 - Some Necessary Question

TEXT:

HAMLET
O, reform it altogether. And let those that play
your clowns speak no more than is set down for them;
for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to
set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh
too; though, in the mean time, some necessary
question of the play be then to be considered:
that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition
in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.

Exeunt Players
Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN

How now, my lord! I will the king hear this piece of work?

POLONIUS
And the queen too, and that presently.

HAMLET
Bid the players make haste.

Exit POLONIUS

Will you two help to hasten them?

ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN
We will, my lord.

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

HAMLET
What ho! Horatio!

Enter HORATIO

HORATIO
Here, sweet lord, at your service.

HAMLET
Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation coped withal.

HORATIO
O, my dear lord…

HAMLET
Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flattered?

NOTES:

Clowns
There are clown characters throughout Shakespeare’s plays - from as early as Titus Andronicus through Othello and The Winter’s Tale. There is no consensus on where the word’s origin is from (the earliest recorded instance is in the 1560s) but it is perhaps of Scandinavian origin. The great clown of the generation before Shakespeare came to prominence was called Richard Tarleton. His successor has generally been assumed to be Will Kempe.

Will Kempe
Kempe was a popular actor with various companies, known for his ability to improvise. (This was so integral to his performances that often the texts of plays in which we know he acted seem rather dull, because it was left to the man himself to perform in the moment!) He was also famous for his dancing, and the jig that was so integral to Elizabethan plays was famous because of him. When Shakespeare and his colleagues founded the Globe Theatre, Kempe was one of the company. We do not know why he left soon afterwards, but it is possible that the absence of Falstaff from Henry V is a direct result of his departure. We do not know for certain if Kempe had played the role in other plays, but it is certainly possible. It is certain that he played Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing and Peter in Romeo and Juliet. It’s at very least possible that he also incarnated the roles of Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Costard in Love’ Labour’s Lost. After he left Shakespeare’s company - for whatever reason - his one other claim to fame is that he morris danced from London to Norwich (a journey that took nine full days) and wrote a book about it. It is believed that he died in 1603, but again, there is no concrete evidence.

Episode 83 - The Mirror Up to Nature

TEXT:

HAMLET
Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the
word to the action; with this special o'erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone,
or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
censure of the which one must in your allowance
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
players that I have seen play, and heard others
praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
nature's journeymen had made men and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

First Player
I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us, sir.

Episode 82 - Trippingly on the Tongue

TEXT:

Enter HAMLET and Players

HAMLET
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it
offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such
a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it
out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

First Player
I warrant your honour.

NOTES:

Town Crier
The town crier was a figure with various public duties, foremost among them the announcement of important information. He also accompanied people to the workhouse, escorted criminals to the stocks, and various other duties.

Robustious
A word Shakespeare made up. Something between robust, illustrious and boisterous. (Also used in Henry V!)

Periwig
The first mention of the word periwig - from which we get the word wig - came in Shakespeare’s play The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In a world infested with lice and other such unpleasantries, wigs became a handy way of keeping one’s appearance while maintaining a shaved head (to prevent lice). Queen Elizabeth I famously wore a red curled wig, and it is safe to assume that others may have emulated her in this. For Hamlet, a wig-wearer is someone affected and overcompensating - like the worst kind of (unperfect!) actor on the stage.

Dumbshows
The earliest known verse drama is Gorboduc, and it dates from 1561. It features a dumbshow - an interlude of non-spoken activity that illuminates the plot. They were very popular, a hangover from medieval morality plays, but had fallen out of fashion by the time that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. As mentioned in the episode, the play brought about something of a resurgence, and many Jacobean plays included dumbshows in the years after Hamlet was written.

Termagant
The origins of the name are complicated - cases have been made for it having come from German, Latin, Italian, English or French. (You can check wikipedia for a detailed analysis of them all…) The name emerged as a personification of a god worshipped by Muslims, but it has almost nothing to do with actual Islamic worship. The character appeared in medieval poetry and drama, usually as an example of a terrible villain (and therefore an excuse for bombastic, over-the-top acting!)

Herod
There are in fact a few famous Herods in the Bible. Herod the Great (responsible for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem) was the client king of Judea at the time Jesus was born, and also ordered the massacre of the innocents. Herod Antipas, his son, is the Herod who appears in the stories of John the Baptist and Salome, and was also in part responsible for the death of Jesus. The name is associated with the worst excesses of Biblical debauchery and murder - again an excuse for exaggerated acting.

EPISODE 81 - MADNESS IN GREAT ONES

TEXT:

CLAUDIUS (continued)
Haply the seas and countries different
With variable objects shall expel
This something-settled matter in his heart,
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself. What think you on't?

POLONIUS
It shall do well: but yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his grief
Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said,
We heard it all. My lord, do as you please,
But, if you hold it fit, after the play
Let his queen mother all alone entreat him
To show his grief: let her be round with him;
And I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.

CLAUDIUS
It shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.

Exeunt

EPISODE 80 - O, WHAT A NOBLE MIND IS HERE O'ERTHROWN

TEXT:

OPHELIA
O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Re-enter CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS

CLAUDIUS
Love! his affections do not that way tend;
Nor what he spake, though it lack'd form a little,
Was not like madness. There's something in his soul,
O'er which his melancholy sits on brood;
And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger: which for to prevent,
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
For the demand of our neglected tribute.

EPISODE 79 - ALL BUT ONE SHALL LIVE

TEXT:

OPHELIA
At home, my lord.

HAMLET
Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the
fool no where but in's own house. Farewell.

OPHELIA
O, help him, you sweet heavens!

HAMLET
If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for
thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as
snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a
nunnery, go: farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough
what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go,
and quickly too. Farewell.

OPHELIA
O heavenly powers, restore him!

HAMLET
I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God
has given you one face, and you make yourselves
another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and
nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness
your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath
made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages:
those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a
nunnery, go.

Exit

EPISODE 78 - GET THEE TO A NUNNERY

TEXT:

HAMLET
Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner
transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the
force of honesty can translate beauty into his
likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the
time gives it proof. I did love you once.

OPHELIA
Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

HAMLET
You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot
so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of
it: I loved you not.

OPHELIA
I was the more deceived.

HAMLET
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Where's your father?

NOTES:

Nunnery
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first reference to a nunnery with the implied meaning of a brothel was in Thomas Nash’s book, Christs Teares over Jerusalem (1593), which refers to prostitutes who ‘give free priviledge’ to gentlemen in ‘theyr Nunnery’. Nash had very harsh words for the city of London and its sinful ways, and he believed the city was on the brink of great peril. He was eventually sent to prison for calling London a ‘seeded garden of ‘sinne’ – which certainly might have inspired Hamlet’s own rather disillusioned description of the world as ‘an unweeded garden / That grows to seed’ (Act I Scene ii).

Prostitution
In this scene, Hamlet tells Ophelia five times that she should ‘Get thee to a nunnery’. Critics have debated whether this simply implies that she should enter a convent to escape corruption, or whether it also hints ambiguously that she should go to a brothel – because the world will inevitably corrupt her with its impure ways. Hamlet is riddled with Images of sexual corruption and prostitution: as Hamlet puts it, Gertrude has been ‘whored’ by Claudius. tainted by her ‘incestious’ relations with her brother-in-law. The imagery is not reserved for Gertrude alone, as Hamlet uses it against other women and even other men in the play. Hamlet suggests that Ophelia is being prostituted by Polonius, when he calls the older man a ‘fishmonger’. Hamlet even goes so far as to refer to himself  as a ‘drab’ and a ‘whore’ or ‘drab’, and earlier in this scene Claudius has described his guilt with a nod to a ‘harlot’s cheek’ (3.1.50). We have even heard fortune called a ‘strumpet’. Beauty and honesty are very much at odds in this world.

EPISODE 77 - ARE YOU HONEST?

TEXT:

OPHELIA
Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?

HAMLET
I humbly thank you; well, well, well.

OPHELIA
My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver;
I pray you, now receive them.

HAMLET
No, not I;
I never gave you aught.

OPHELIA
My honour'd lord, you know right well you did;
And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.

HAMLET
Ha, ha! are you honest?

OPHELIA
My lord?

HAMLET
Are you fair?

OPHELIA
What means your lordship?

HAMLET
That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should
admit no discourse to your beauty.

OPHELIA
Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than
with honesty?