EPISODE 62 - THE BEST ACTORS IN THE WORLD

TEXT:

HAMLET
Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too, at each ear a
hearer: that great baby you see there is not yet
out of his swaddling-clouts.

ROSENCRANTZ
Happily he's the second time come to them; for they
say an old man is twice a child.

HAMLET
I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players;
mark it. You say right, sir: o' Monday morning;
'twas so indeed.

POLONIUS
My lord, I have news to tell you.

HAMLET
My lord, I have news to tell you.
When Roscius was an actor in Rome…

POLONIUS
The actors are come hither, my lord.

HAMLET
Buzz, buzz!

POLONIUS
Upon mine honour…

HAMLET
Then came each actor on his ass,--

POLONIUS
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the
liberty, these are the only men.

NOTES:

Swaddling Clouts
The phrase “swaddling clouts” refers to the swaddling clothes familiar to Christian listeners who recognise it from the description of the Nativity. From the King James version of the Gospel of St. Luke: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Roscius
Quintus Roscius (ca. 126 BC – 62 BC) was a Roman actor. By the Renaissance, he was considered the paradigm of achievement as an actor. Presumably Hamlet is quoting a ballad or poem about him when he mentions actors riding on their asses in ancient Rome.

The Roman Actor
The Roman Actor is a Caroline-era play by Philip Massinger. Written shortly after Shakespeare died, it is an intriguing look at how contemporary England looked at Ancient Rome.

Books
Harold Bloom - Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (here)
J. Dover Wilson - What Happens in Hamlet (here)
Michael Srigley - Hamlet, The Law of Writ, and the Universities (here)

Seven Ages of Man
As You Like It contains Shakespeare’s beloved speech about the stages of human life. Here it is, in its entirety!

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

EPISODE 61 - I KNOW A HAWK FROM A HANDSAW

TEXT:

HAMLET
It is not very strange; for mine uncle is king of
Denmark, and those that would make mouths at him while
my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, an
hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in little.
'Sblood, there is something in this more than
natural, if philosophy could find it out.

Flourish of trumpets within

GUILDENSTERN
There are the players.

HAMLET
Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands,
come then: the appurtenance of welcome is fashion
and ceremony: let me comply with you in this garb,
lest my extent to the players, which, I tell you,
must show fairly outward, should more appear like
entertainment than yours. You are welcome: but my
uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.

GUILDENSTERN
In what, my dear lord?

HAMLET
I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Enter POLONIUS

POLONIUS
Well be with you, gentlemen!

NOTES:

DUCAT
Ducats appear in several of Shakespeare’s plays based in Europe - nowhere more famously than in The Merchant of Venice. This is probably appropriate for the city that minted the coin, which went on to become the most common trading coin in Europe for several centuries.

I’ve attached one below. May it bring you luck!

italian_states_venice_ducat.jpg

EPISODE 60 - AN EYRIE OF CHILDREN

TEXT:

HAMLET
Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was
in the city? Are they so followed?

ROSENCRANTZ
No, indeed, are they not.

HAMLET
How comes it? Do they grow rusty?

ROSENCRANTZ
Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but
there is, sir, an eyrie of children, little eyases,
that cry out on the top of question, and are most
tyrannically clapped for’t: these are now the
fashion, and so berattle the common stages - so they
call them - that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.

HAMLET
What, are they children? Who maintains them? How are
they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no
longer than they can sing? Will they not say
afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
players - as it is most like, if their means are no
better - their writers do them wrong, to make them
exclaim against their own succession?

ROSENCRANTZ
'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and
the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to
controversy: there was, for a while, no money bid
for argument, unless the poet and the player went to
cuffs in the question.

HAMLET
Is't possible?

GUILDENSTERN
O, there has been much throwing about of brains.

HAMLET
Do the boys carry it away?

ROSENCRANTZ
Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load too.

NOTES:

The War of the Theatres (also rather fancifully dubbed the Poetomachia by Thomas Dekker) was a controversy between various playwrights in London in the early 17th century. The Archbishops of Canterbury and London brought about a ban in 1599 (The Bishops’ Ban) that forbade satire in prose or poetry, or in plays that were not approved by the Privy Council. Thanks to the ban, theatre became the centre of conflict between rival poets. Wikipedia has a helpful summary of the shots fired:

The least disputed facts of the matter yield a schema like this:

  1. In his play Histriomastix (1599), John Marston satirized Jonson’s pride through the character Chrisoganus.

  2. Ben Jonson responded by satirizing Marston's wordy style in Every Man out of His Humour (1599), a play acted by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

  3. Marston, in turn, replied with Jack Drum's Entertainment (1600), a play acted by the Children of Paul's, satirizing Jonson as Brabant Senior, a cuckold.

  4. In Cynthia's Revels (1600), acted by the Children of the Chapel, Jonson satirizes both Marston and Thomas Dekker. The former is thought to be represented by the character Hedon, a "light voluptuous reveller," and the latter by Anaides, a "strange arrogating puff."

  5. Marston next attacked Jonson in What You Will (1601), a play most likely acted by the Children of Paul's.

  6. Jonson responded with The Poetaster (1601), by the Children of the Chapel again, in which Jonson portrays the character representing Marston as vomiting bombastic and ridiculous words he has ingested.

  7. Dekker completed the sequence with Satiromastix (1601), which mocks Jonson ("Horace") as an arrogant and overbearing hypocrite. The play was acted by both the Children of Paul's and the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

Apparently Jonson and Marston eventually came to terms and even collaborated with George Chapman on the play Eastward Hoe in 1605. That play offended The King, because of its anti-Scottish satire. While Marston evaded capture, Jonson and Chapman ended up in jail as a result.

What’s particularly interesting is that the vast majority of these plays seem to have small references to Hamlet within them. (Go find them!)

EPISODE 59 - THE TRAGEDIANS OF THE CITY

TEXT:

HAMLET (continued)
…no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so.

ROSENCRANTZ
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.

HAMLET
Why did you laugh then, when I said 'man delights not me'?

ROSENCRANTZ
To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what
lenten entertainment the players shall receive from
you: we coted them on the way; and hither are they
coming, to offer you service.

HAMLET
He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty
shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight
shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not
sigh gratis; the humourous man shall end his part
in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose
lungs are tickled o' the sere; and the lady shall
say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt
for't. What players are they?

ROSENCRANTZ
Even those you were wont to take delight in, the
tragedians of the city.

HAMLET
How chances it they travel? their residence, both
in reputation and profit, was better both ways.

ROSENCRANTZ
I think their inhibition comes by the means of the
late innovation.

NOTES:
Richard Burbage
Click here to listen to the Bonus Episode about Richard Burbage, the original interpreter of Hamlet.

The Essex Rebellion
The Essex Rebellion was an unsuccessful rebellion led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, in 1601. His faction rose up against Queen Elizabeth I and the court faction led by Sir Robert Cecil in the hope of gaining further influence at court.

Children’s Acting Companies
Companies of boy performers, known as children’s or boys’ companies, enjoyed great popularity in Elizabethan England. The young performers were drawn primarily from choir schools attached to the great chapels and cathedrals, where they received musical training and were taught to perform in religious dramas and classical Latin plays. Famous examples included the Children of the Chapel and the Children of Paul’s. During Elizabeth’s reign these groups were formed into highly professional companies, usually consisting of 8 to 12 boys, who gave public performances outside the court. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, these companies were so popular that they posed a serious threat to the professional men’s companies - the ‘innovation’ referred to in this episode.

EPISODE 58 - QUINTESSENCE OF DUST

TEXT:

ROSENCRANTZ [Aside to GUILDENSTERN]
What say you?

HAMLET [Aside]
Nay, then, I have an eye of you.
If you love me, hold not off.

GUILDENSTERN
My lord, we were sent for.

HAMLET
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
and queen moult no feather. 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 appears 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 faculty! 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.

NOTES:
The Globe

As promised, here is a cutaway image of The Globe wherein you can see the stage platform (frame), the canopy (the heavens) and the proximity of how close the groundlings would have been. It must indeed have felt like a promontory, jutting out into a sea of listening faces.

EPISODE 57 - BE EVEN AND DIRECT WITH ME

TEXT:

HAMLET (continued)
But, in the beaten way of friendship,
what make you at Elsinore?

ROSENCRANTZ
To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.

HAMLET
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I
thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are
too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it
your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come,
deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.

GUILDENSTERN
What should we say, my lord?

HAMLET
Why, any thing, but to the purpose. You were sent
for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks
which your modesties have not craft enough to colour:
I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

ROSENCRANTZ
To what end, my lord?

HAMLET
That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by
the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of
our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved
love, and by what more dear a better proposer could
charge you withal, be even and direct with me,
whether you were sent for, or no?

EPISODE 56 - DENMARK'S A PRISON

TEXT:

HAMLET
Let me question more in particular. What have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?

GUILDENSTERN
Prison, my lord!

HAMLET
Denmark's a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ
Then is the world one.

HAMLET
A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.

ROSENCRANTZ
We think not so, my lord.

HAMLET
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me
it is a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ
Why then, your ambition makes it one - 'tis too
narrow for your mind.

HAMLET
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.

GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

HAMLET
A dream itself is but a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.

HAMLET
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we
to the court? For, by my fay, I cannot reason.

ROSENCRANTZ GUILDENSTERN
We'll wait upon you.

HAMLET
No such matter. I will not sort you with the rest
of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest
man, I am most dreadfully attended.


NOTES:

Queen Anne of Denmark
(12 December 1574 - 2 March 1619)
Anne was born on 12 December 1574 at the castle of Skanderborg on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. She spent her earliest years in Germany, but grew up mostly in Denmark. She was married to James VI of Scotland at the age of fourteen. En route to Scotland, her ship was stranded in Norway, and the king himself sailed to Norway, where their marriage was celebrated on 23 November 1589.
Anne was rather tall - taller than her husband, indeed - and was a fan of dancing and performing. She went on to appear in numerous masques by Ben Johnson, among them The Masque of Beauty. Several of her children with James did not survive into adulthood, and eventually the royal couple grew apart. Anne lived in Somerset House - which she renamed Denmark House - and was a great patroness of the arts. She died in 1619. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, but the catafalque covering her resting place was destroyed during the upheavals against her son, Charles I.

Queen Mab
Shakespeare’s descriptions of the magical are always alluring and enticing, perhaps nowhere moreso than in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However it is in Romeo and Juliet that we get one of the most beautiful evocations of things in miniature - and I must confess that Hamlet’s “king of infinite space” within a nutshell always makes me think of it. Mercutio, gently mocking Romeo, gives this magnificent description of the fairies’ midwife, Queen Mab, as follows:


O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coach-makers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies ' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she…

EPISODE 55 - The World's Grown Honest

TEXT:

GUILDENSTERN
My honoured lord!

ROSENCRANTZ
My most dear lord!

HAMLET
My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?

ROSENCRANTZ
As the indifferent children of the earth.

GUILDENSTERN
Happy, in that we are not over-happy;
On fortune's cap we are not the very button.

HAMLET
Nor the soles of her shoe?

ROSENCRANTZ
Neither, my lord.

HAMLET
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of
her favours?

GUILDENSTERN
'Faith, her privates we.

HAMLET
In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she
is a strumpet. What's the news?

ROSENCRANTZ
None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.

HAMLET
Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.

Episode 54 - There's Method In It

TEXT:

POLONIUS
[Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method
in 't. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

HAMLET
Into my grave.

POLONIUS
Indeed, that is out o' the air.
Aside
How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness
that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity
could not so prosperously be delivered of. I will
leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of
meeting between him and my daughter. - My honourable
lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

HAMLET
You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will
more willingly part withal: except my life, except
my life, except my life.

POLONIUS
Fare you well, my lord.

HAMLET
These tedious old fools!

Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

POLONIUS
You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.

ROSENCRANTZ
[To POLONIUS] God save you, sir!

Exit POLONIUS

Episode 53 - Words, Words, Words

TEXT:

POLONIUS
That's very true, my lord.

HAMLET
”For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
god kissing carrion…” Have you a daughter?

POLONIUS
I have, my lord.

HAMLET
Let her not walk i' the sun: conception is a
blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive.
Friend, look to it.

POLONIUS
[Aside] How say you by that? Still harping on my
daughter: yet he knew me not at first; he said I
was a fishmonger: he is far gone, far gone: and
truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for
love; very near this. I'll speak to him again.
What do you read, my lord?

HAMLET
Words, words, words.

POLONIUS
What is the matter, my lord?

HAMLET
Between who?

POLONIUS
I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

HAMLET
Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of
wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
you could go backward.

EPISODE 52 - YOU ARE A FISHMONGER

TEXT:

CLAUDIUS
                How may we try it further?


POLONIUS
You know, sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.

GERTRUDE
                
     So he does indeed.

POLONIUS
At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him:
Be you and I behind an arras then;
Mark the encounter: if he love her not
And be not from his reason fall'n thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters.

CLAUDIUS
                                            
We will try it.

GERTRUDE
But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

POLONIUS
Away, I do beseech you, both away.
I'll board him presently.

Exeunt CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE, and Attendants
Enter HAMLET, reading

O, give me leave.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?

HAMLET
Well, God-a-mercy.

POLONIUS
Do you know me, my lord?

HAMLET
Excellent well - you are a fishmonger.

POLONIUS
Not I, my lord.

HAMLET
Then I would you were so honest a man.

POLONIUS
Honest, my lord!

HAMLET
Ay, sir - to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
one man picked out of ten thousand.


NOTES

LOBBY

From the Latin word lobium (plural lobia), meaning a covered walkway or portico. A Roman home was often built around a garden with a pool for rainwater - this kind of entrance to a home or building grew over time (via cloisters in religious convents and monasteries) and the place filled with lobia came to be known as the lobby. Hamlet is the only play that refers to such an architectural feature. The word lobby in its other meaning appears only in Henry VI.2 and in Timon of Athens

ARRAS
Arras is a town in northern France famous for its tapestries. Its reputation for fine such artworks dates back at least to the 14th century, and indeed the reputation grew so great that the name of the town became synonymous with beautiful hanging tapestries. The image below is of Henry VIII in court - the hanging tapestry behind the throne is spectacular, and the curtains around it give a small sense of the distance between the tapestry and the wall behind - just enough room, perhaps, for someone to hide and eavesdrop...

 

0a_theredlist-1024x738.jpg

EPISODE 51 - THIS MADNESS WHEREIN NOW HE RAVES

TEXT:

POLONIUS (continued)
                              No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
"Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star;
This must not be." And then I precepts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice,
And he, repulsed - a short tale to make -
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we mourn for.

CLAUDIUS
                                 Do you think 'tis this?

GERTRUDE
It may be, very likely.

POLONIUS
Hath there been such a time - I'd fain know that -
That I have positively said "Tis so,"
When it proved otherwise?

CLAUDIUS
                                           Not that I know.

POLONIUS
Take this from this, if this be otherwise.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre.

 

NOTES:

LOVESICKNESS
Shakespeare gives many descriptions of how it feels to fall prey to lovesickness. At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio (himself feeling out of sorts) spots Romeo out moping in the early hours of the morning. Indeed it is his distracted lovesickness that makes Romeo miss the brawl that starts the play. As mentioned in the episode, Rosalind also has a fun description of the symptoms Orlando would display if he really were in love. The comedies Much Ado About Nothing and Love's Labour's Lost also poke fun at the grisly process of falling in love and the ill-effects it can have on human health - all of which might have prepared an audience for Hamlet's behaviour. But is he really in love or only acting?

BREVITY
Tony Church wrote a brilliant contribution to the first of the six excellent "Players of Shakespeare" books from Cambridge University Press. In his essay on playing Polonius, he discusses a genius move in rehearsals for the play, in which the company changed the alcohol being consumed in the Danish court. They moved from wine to harder liquor (aquavit, appropriate to the Scandinavian setting) - immediately Polonius' verbosity became a bravura performance at dizzying speed, in which he could deliver twice the text anyone else might speak in the same amount of time. In this staging, Polonius could show a different awareness of his overblown language - and these earlier scenes displayed rather more humour. 

MELANCHOLY
As mentioned in the notes for a previous episode, for a very good article by Erin Sullivan on heartbreak and Shakespeare, including some discussion of contemporary medicine and medical opinion on sadness and heartbreak, click here

EPISODE 50 - DOUBT THOU THE STARS ARE FIRE?

TEXT:

POLONIUS
Reads

'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers;
I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
'Thine evermore most dear lady, whilst
this machine is to him, HAMLET.'

This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means and place,
All given to mine ear.

CLAUDIUS
But how hath she
Received his love?

POLONIUS
What do you think of me?

CLAUDIUS
As of a man faithful and honourable.

POLONIUS
I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing--
As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me--what might you,
Or my dear majesty your queen here, think,
If I had play'd the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look'd upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think?

NOTES:

PTOLEMY
Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 100 – c.  170) was a Greco-Roman astronomer, mathematician, geographer and astrologer. He also wrote a short poem that was included in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Alexandria. He wrote on music, on science, and is particularly noted for his treatises on how the earth is the centre of the universe, and that the sun rotates around it. 

MACHINE
Hamletmachine (Die Hamletmaschine) by Heiner Muller was written in 1977. Although it is only about nine pages long, it is a dense and sometimes shocking response to Shakespeare's play. 

ASTRONOMY in HAMLET
Here is the article I mentioned - an extensive discussion of Astronomy in Hamlet

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.