A Musing: Hamlet




I absolutely loved it. I became drunk on Shakespeare’s imaginative and original language. I chuckled and I snickered. I bemoaned our fate as human beings. And I’ll admit it — I delighted in picking out all of the famous lines.

Speaking of famous lines, I want to include a Public Service Announcement about Polonius. Writers of high school graduation speeches, sitcoms, self-help books, and oh dear those about to get a tattoo please be aware: “To thine own self be true” doesn’t mean what you think it does.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3

Polonius is a windbag. He’s a spy. He’s false and tries to curry favor with the King every chance he gets. In this scene, what he is actually saying to his son Laertes is more a self-interested “make sure you are looking out for number one, boy!” speech than any sort of call to inner integrity. If this post saves one person from quoting this line out of context, I’ll sleep better at night (but read the play, too. For me. I  just saved you from getting a tattoo that is the equivalent of “I’ve never read Hamlet yet I went ahead and had a phrase I didn’t understand tattooed on my body forever and ever.”)

I also watched the 1948 film adapted, directed by, and starring Laurence Olivier. I am a little surprised that I didn’t care for it! I was really distracted  by the tights and theatrical atmosphere after feeling so intimate and connected with the text. I’ll try Kenneth Branagh next — I remember liking that one when it first came out.

Consider my Shakespeare appetite whetted! This was a most enjoyable and educational Classics Spin #2 for me 🙂 I’m pondering which play to read next — any suggestions?

(photograph from http://www.checkoutmyink.com  My “ownself ” cannot muster anything else to say about it!)


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  2. elmerado

    makes me even more certain that the only tattoo i would ever get is a dotted line around my neck with the words “in the event of an emergency, please cut here”

  3. Lady M

    Dear Ms. Jackie, thank you for following my blog. Your blog looks right up my alley! I have to say, I am now following you and having so much fun poking through your archives.

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