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Theatre Thursday: Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Welcome to Theatre Thursday!  Because plays are books too, I will be featuring each Thursday a play I’ve read that I think you should read.  After all, I got a degree in this stuff and it’s languishing.

So.  That’s the plan for Theatre Thursday.

On this fine Thursday I’m exhausted from too little sleep and a full day of work, so I’ll just give you a selection now and talk about why, later.

You should read William Shakespeare’s HAMLET.  Not just because it’s a classic, though that’s important.  But also because it’s a very SMART play, a very TIGHT play, and way better than most people would have you believe.

If, like many folks, you feel plays were meant to be watched and not read (and indeed this is true), then I strongly recommend the Kenneth Branagh HAMLET.  Because seriously?  All the others cut a lot of stuff out.  This is the only Hamlet movie with the WHOLE SCRIPT in it.  Yeah, it’s over 4 hours long.  But it’s 4 BRILLIANT hours.  And it’s out on DVD now, too.

We’ll talk more about why HAMLET is awesome another time.  For now, just take my word for it.  Here’s a quick snippet for you. 

Enter HAMLET, reading

LORD POLONIUS
O, give me leave:
How does my good Lord Hamlet?

HAMLET 
Well, God-a-mercy.

LORD POLONIUS 
Do you know me, my lord?

HAMLET 
Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

LORD POLONIUS 
Not I, my lord.

HAMLET 
Then I would you were so honest a man.

LORD POLONIUS 
Honest, my lord!

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

LORD 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?

LORD 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 ‘t.

LORD 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.

LORD POLONIUS 
What is the matter, my lord?

HAMLET 
Between who?

LORD 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.

LORD 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.

LORD 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.

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