Friday, January 27, 2006

Reader's Diary #21- William Shakespeare: Hamlet (End of Act 1, Scene 4)

William Shakespeare must have had some pretty lousy parents. I have no idea if this is true, but in the plays that I've read, they wouldn't have exactly written the The Happiest Baby on the Block. Remember Romeo and Juliet's parents? Lousy. So far, Hamlet's mom doesn't seem like she's getting a #1 Mom t-shirt anytime soon either. Along with her new hubby (her dead husband's brother no less) she brushes off Hamlet's sense of loss for his father with a paltry spiel about death being inevitable and some lame advice to basically move on. Cold, eh? Then there's Ophelia and Laertes' dad, Palonius. At first he gives one of those windbag speeches to Laertes (who is departing) that as children, we all loathe. Yackety-yak-yak. One adage after another. Of course, maybe this is just the way people talked back then. Or maybe this is typical playwright stuff for the time. There's bound to be lengthy soliloquys in there somewhere, why not lengthy lectures too? Incidentally, it is during these ramblings that the "to thine own self be true" comment comes in. I'm not saying it was all bad advice, but let's face it- the first time you went off on your own, how much did you groan inside when you got a version of this lecture?

Then Palonius goes on to basically mock Ophelia's love for Hamlet, insinuating that she is naive and immature and advises her to stay away from him. Not exactly Mr. Sensitivity. Maybe not all that atypical, but not nice either.

It's Ophelia that has me the most intrigued so far. Not because her character has done anything all that fascinating yet (up to this point she comes across as a typical lovesick teen, probably a little too easily led). But I know she goes crazy eventually, and there seems to be an obsession with her (or at least the name) in the arts community. When I think of music, there's songs by the Band, Moist, and Natalie Merchant- so there's either something compelling or people are jumping on the (ahem) Band wagon. Any others?


Robert Hiscock said...

Most weren't adages until long after Shakespeare coined them.

When I was in high school I was a fan of Mae Moore's Ophelia.. so you can add that to, what I'm sure will be, a long list.

John Mutford said...

Re: Shakespearean coined adages

It's exactly this sort of influence on our modern world that made me choose to read Shakespeare and the Bible on a more regular basis. Maybe I should add some Greek tradgedies too.

Robert Hiscock said...

Just caught myself humming Adam Cohen's Cry Ophelia and realized where that came from...
Funny how the mind works.

As a complete aside,
I think, physically, Adam
is morphing into his father...

There's more than
a passing resemblence.

John Mutford said...

Speaking of Shakespeare's influence, this might be of interest: Adventure Of English and if you're interested in Shakespeare in general Book Television