Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Magpie 38


The Magpie prompt this week immediately brought up memories of the greatest graveyard scene ever created in what was possibly the greatest play ever created: the graveyard sequence in “Hamlet.”

You’re probably familiar with the action of the scene, but let’s run through it again.
A couple of gravediggers are doing their thing in Act 5, digging away, and at the same time making jokes. Shakespeare has been criticized by some scholars for mixing humor – or what passed for humor four hundred and some years ago – with tragedy. After all, that’s Ophelia’s grave they’re digging.
But as Quentin Tarantino has assured us, mixing humor with tragedy is often powerfully effective.
Sample of grave-digger humor:
First G-D, to Second G-D: “Who would build the best house? A carpenter, a mason or a shipwright?”
Second G-D (sort of bored): “I don’t know.”
First G-D: “Well, don’t wear out your brains on it. The answer? A grave-digger! The houses he builds last till doomsday!”
Now, come on; that’s not bad – for the sixteenth century. :-)

Anyway, Hamlet and his close friend Horatio come upon the scene. There’s a skull that the G-D has tossed aside. It’s Yorick’s skull.
Hamlet: “I knew him, Horatio!”

The picture of Hamlet with the skull has become one of the best known images of the play. It is clear that the Prince has been greatly affected by what he has seen and learned. In fact, it’s not too much to say that when he learns of Ophelia’s death it’s as though he becomes at least somewhat deranged.
When her funeral procession arrives, Hamlet, for no reason whatever, attacks her brother Laertes, who had always been his good friend.
Laertes: “Lay her in the earth. And from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring!”
Hamlet, leaping forward: “What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis? I loved Ophelia! Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum!”
There has always been a question as to whether Hamlet became really a bit insane or was just acting that way. Let’s examine closely what he shouts at this moment of high tension.
Hamlet: “What would you do for her, Laertes? Would you drink vinegar, eat a crocodile? Well, I would!”
The King: “Oh, he is mad, Laertes!”
Eat a crocodile? This is just part of his raving. Hamlet has definitely become unhinged, at least for the moment.
It’s a powerful scene, worth recalling when regarding this week’s Magpie prompt.

31 comments:

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing the scene. It WAS interesting reading, and it does so fit!

Diane T said...

A very interesting recounting of the scene!

ana said...

The skull is what I always think of when I think of Hamlet. Well, the skull and Mel Gibson as Hamlet! :)

kathew said...

yoicks! Great post!

Kay L. Davies said...

Eat a crocodile. I say, old chap, isn't that a trifle infra-dig?

Doc FTSE said...

Poor Hamlet! Pulled every whichway by just about everyone else in the play, uncle, mother, beloved Ophelia, friends, loyalty to dead father . . .
who wouldn't become unhinged, or pretend to be?

Berowne said...

Doc FTSE: Yes, I'd agree.

Berowne said...

My thanks for some fine comments from Mary, Diane T, ana, kathew and Kay L.

Pat said...

Hamlet wasn't exactly kind and loving to Ophelia when she was alive. Who is he to criticise her brother?

Lyn said...

Just goes to show ya..there's Shakespeare, and the rest of us..and you,reminding us (thank you!!)..good job..I'm humbled!!

Suz said...

always a good read here

Southwest Arkie said...

Hamlet was a bit touched! One of my favorite plays.

willow said...

Ah. Perfect. I need my Shakespeare fix today. Alas, poor Yorick.

Now, I've gotta pop the Branagh version in tonight for a much needed watch!

Derrick said...

I saw Simon Keenlyside play Hamlet in the Met's production earlier this year. Wonderfully sung and he certainly feigned madness convincingly!

Berowne said...

Not everyone realizes there is a "Hamlet" opera (by Ambroise Thomas). I haven't seen that Met production, but the reviews were great: "Keenlyside’s superb singing, coupled with his deftly delineated three-dimensional Hamlet, was one of the greatest examples of operatic drama of our time."

Berowne said...

willow: "Ah. Perfect. I need my Shakespeare fix today."
Just as the rest of us need our willow fix. :-)

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

I have to say: the joke about grave-diggers is just so cute, almost childish - my niece will love it!! both smart, literary and G rated ;) Great magpie (as usual).
ps - eat a crocodile is insane? obviously they didn't know about fried alligator in Louisiana!

Berowne said...

OJ Gonzalez: "Great magpie (as usual).
Obviously they didn't know about fried alligator in Louisiana!"
Thanks for this culinary tip; sounds tasty. :-)

Maurie Kirschner said...

oh, yes... I love the Shakespeare and Hamlet direction for the magpie... perfect!

spacedlaw said...

He must be truly mad, for the crocodile would object.

Elizabeth said...

The madness now known outside the royal court, the gravedigger revealing Hamlet's inheritance to be symbollically a grave, the pun on 'air' and 'heir' and much more than there is space to whisper of here - truly a pivotal point in the play. 'When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.'

Berowne said...

Some more great stuff from Elizabeth, WKHS (Who Knows Her Shakespeare).

Berowne said...

spacedlaw: "He must be truly mad, for the crocodile would object."
Not if he was in a fricassee. :-)

umapoems said...

I have'nt seen the scenes yet but your written post makes me to see this film.well written!

Katherine said...

Great Magpie Berowne!!! an interesting read indeed!

Berowne said...

My thanks to Katherine for such an enthusiastic comment.

Tumblewords: said...

Madness is so easy to emulate! :) Another fine write!

Berowne said...

Thanks, Tumblewords. Always great to hear from you.

Corrina Terry said...

Thanks for reminding me about a great play (and movie!) I think it's time for a reread of it. :o) Nicely done!

Helen said...

I was more than ready for Hamlet .... nicely done!

Berowne said...

Helen: "I was more than ready for Hamlet .... nicely done!"
Thanks so much.

 
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