Shakespeare, Anyone?

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    Brian Stansell



    This is just my speculation, but, I think the weight of all of the injustices done to Hamlet, and the outward pretenses that he must keep up among the court while his uncle has both cuckolded and murdered his noble father make Hamlet so incensed, that he sees betrayal in every face.  Especially in those which he once had genuine affection.  He suspects that Ophelia is just covering for her father Polonius’s part in the betrayal and murder of his father.  Despite what he says, I do believe he did love Ophelia and her sincerity in being troubled by his frustration is misunderstood to be her still deceiving him and mocking him.  He does not know who he can trust anymore for everyone he trusted before seems to be part of the plot.  He even talks about her make-up being used as a deception to seem pleasing to the eye, but covering some flaw or skin imperfection, so that a man may be lured to believe what is pleasing to his eyes, yet hiding the truth of what may not be.  Since his own mother married his murdering uncle, he now, unfairly, regards Ophelia with the suspicion of being duplicitous as well.  Just prior to the “get thee to a nunnery” scene, Polonius and Claudius are in fact conspiring and discussing Hamlet, before Hamlet enters the scene and approaches Ophelia.  This lends to the sense of betrayal that Hamlet expresses.  Everything he once believed to be good is now cast into the light of suspicion, and he is angered by it.  Unfortunately, he takes it out on Ophelia.  It is why he is often portrayed to have been irrational and out of his mind.  The pain it elicits in Ophelia is what leads her to go out of her mind as well, and that is the tragedy of it.  It is why Laertes becomes so angry with Hamlet that he wants to kill him to avenge the injustice done to Ophelia, which sets up the tragedy at the end with the duel and the poisoned sword and cup.

    Remember both Polonius and King Claudius are hidden and witnessing the scene with Ophelia.  Hamlet may even suspect that they are being spied upon, when he enters, which breaks his heart even further at the seeming prospect that Ophelia could be in on it as well.  Notice that she does not seem natural in the scene when he enters, but kind of staged.  She tried to return his “remembrances” to him, and he feels insulted by that gesture.  In the Mel Gibson version he even sees the shadow of either Polonius or Claudius on the wall, before he responds, further heightening his suspicion that Ophelia is toying with him and his once sincere affections for her.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    Emily Waldorf



    Thank you for the response, it was most interesting to read your thoughts. I’m glad I have found someone else who also thinks that Hamlet genuinely loves Ophelia.

    I think that Hamlet is disillusioned with marriage and women in general, after being so hurt by his mother’s actions and, also, since his overtures toward Ophelia have been rejected. That was Polonius’ fault, but Hamlet doesn’t know that, maybe.

    But despite all that, and coupled with it, when Hamlet interacts with people he must “put an antic disposition on” or feign madness–so I feel that a good part of his abrasive words to Ophelia in this scene are all part of the act. (I don’t  believe Hamlet was actually going mad, I believe it’s a disguise so he can get the information that he wants.)

    I do think that he is angry with her for 1) disregarding his tenders of affection (“the pangs of dispriz’d love”) and 2) tattling on him to Polonius. You mentioned the interpretation where Hamlet knows that the king and Polonius are spying on him–I find that interpretation interesting, and think that even if he didn’t know they were there, he sure knew that everything he tells Ophelia gets back to Polonius, and everything Polonius knows goes right to the king.

    But when I read the scene, I sense almost a reluctance to have to be harsh with her, though he might get carried away by his feelings of anger and confusion toward her.

    Hamlet has been said to be a play about 3 wronged sons, which is true, but I end up feeling that Ophelia is as wronged as any of them, between her father, Hamlet (to an extent),  circumstances, and of course the king, because his actions have wronged everyone in the play.


    I hope that made sense. I’m in a hurry, and communicating (especially on the subject of Hamlet) is not my strong point. (begs the question of why am I a writer, then.)

    You like the Mel Gibson Hamlet. 🙂 I’ve never seen it, but from your previous post, it seems like a well-done version. (I haven’t had the time to watch this second one). I’m going to give the David Tennant Hamlet a try. I think it will be a wild interpretation, but it seems well acted, anyway.


    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"



    My favorite quote is this from Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, lines 211-16:


    Not a whit. We defy augury. There’s a

    special providence in the fall of a sparrow.

    If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to

    come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it

    will come—the readiness is all. Since no

    man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to

    leave betimes? Let be.

    That quote pretty much sums up an idea I’ve been thinking about recently and it has given me great comfort. If God wants me somewhere, He’ll put me there. All I need to do is be ready for whatever He calls me to.

    "Can't have dirty garbage."

    Brian Stansell

    Emily and Bethany,

    I love this scene in Henry V from Act IV: Scene 1 where King Henry goes out into the battle camp in disguise to find out the predisposition of his men and find out what they honestly think about the upcoming Battle of Agincourt.  Henry challenges the idea that men are merely servants of the King under duty alone, and by following the King they have no responsibility for their own actions or sins committed while serving under their obligation of duty.  I think there is an important distinction made here, that we should not just blindly follow those in leadership, but should realize that we must look to our own conscience and accountability to God and recognize that what a leader tells us to do, if the guidance is immoral, does not absolve us from being held accountable before God if we do the action against our conviction.  Both Williams and Gates are unaware of who they are conversing with, so they speak without filters.

    I think often times when we personally are praying in a group, we may not be as honest as we might, if we were praying where no one else could hear us but God alone.  I think God wants us to be honest with Him, and not just give the answers we think God wants to hear.  I think that is why God want’s us to have both a personal quiet time with Him, so there is no pretense of what others might think of us when we reveal our true thoughts.  He knows them anyway, but He wants us to be honest about them when talking to Him.

    I know this is a very poor comparison, but in some ways I see a model in this story reflecting God’s model of walking among us, becoming one of us, to get the full sense of our weakness in humanity, before revealing Himself to be God and our King.  He joins us in the battle camp.  He refuses to be “ransomed” (to personally exempt himself from the shared harm), but takes upon himself the full consequence of what He has committed us to.

    Note both Bate’s argument and that of Williams, and the King’s counter to each.

    Here’s the text:

    WILLIAMS We see yonder the beginning of the day, but I think
    we shall never see the end of it. Who goes there?

    KING HENRY V A friend.

    WILLIAMS Under what captain serve you?

    KING HENRY V Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.

    WILLIAMS A good old commander and a most kind gentleman: I
    pray you, what thinks he of our estate?

    KING HENRY V Even as men wrecked upon a sand, that look to be
    washed off the next tide.

    BATES He hath not told his thought to the king?

    KING HENRY V No; nor it is not meet he should. For, though I
    speak it to you, I think the king is but a man, as I
    am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the
    element shows to him as it doth to me; all his
    senses have but human conditions: his ceremonies
    laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and
    though his affections are higher mounted than ours,
    yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like
    wing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we
    do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish
    as ours are: yet, in reason, no man should possess
    him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing
    it, should dishearten his army.

    BATES He may show what outward courage he will; but I
    believe, as cold a night as ’tis, he could wish
    himself in Thames up to the neck; and so I would he
    were, and I by him, at all adventures, so we were quit here.

    KING HENRY V By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the king:
    I think he would not wish himself any where but
    where he is.

    BATES Then I would he were here alone; so should he be
    sure to be ransomed, and a many poor men’s lives saved.

    KING HENRY V I dare say you love him not so ill, to wish him here
    alone, howsoever you speak this to feel other men’s
    minds: methinks I could not die any where so
    contented as in the king’s company; his cause being
    just and his quarrel honourable.

    WILLIAMS That’s more than we know.

    BATES Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
    enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
    his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
    the crime of it out of us.

    WILLIAMS But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
    a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
    arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
    together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
    such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a
    surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
    them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
    children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die
    well that die in a battle; for how can they
    charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their
    argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it
    will be a black matter for the king that led them to
    it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of

    KING HENRY V So, if a son that is by his father sent about
    merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
    imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
    imposed upon his father that sent him: or if a
    servant, under his master’s command transporting a
    sum of money, be assailed by robbers and die in
    many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the
    business of the master the author of the servant’s
    damnation: but this is not so: the king is not
    bound to answer the particular endings of his
    soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
    his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
    they purpose their services. Besides, there is no
    king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to
    the arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all
    unspotted soldiers: some peradventure have on them
    the guilt of premeditated and contrived murder;
    some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals of
    perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that
    have before gored the gentle bosom of peace with
    pillage and robbery. Now, if these men have
    defeated the law and outrun native punishment,
    though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to
    fly from God: war is his beadle, war is vengeance;
    so that here men are punished for before-breach of
    the king’s laws in now the king’s quarrel: where
    they feared the death, they have borne life away;
    and where they would be safe, they perish: then if
    they die unprovided, no more is the king guilty of
    their damnation than he was before guilty of those
    impieties for the which they are now visited. Every
    subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s
    soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in
    the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every
    mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death
    is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was
    blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained:
    and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think
    that, making God so free an offer, He let him
    outlive that day to see His greatness and to teach
    others how they should prepare.

    WILLIAMS ‘Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill upon
    his own head, the king is not to answer it.

    BATES But I do not desire he should answer for me; and
    yet I determine to fight lustily for him.

    KING HENRY V I myself heard the king say he would not be ransomed.

    WILLIAMS Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully: but
    when our throats are cut, he may be ransomed, and we
    ne’er the wiser.

    KING HENRY V If I live to see it, I will never trust his word after.

    WILLIAMS You pay him then. That’s a perilous shot out of an
    elder-gun, that a poor and private displeasure can
    do against a monarch! you may as well go about to
    turn the sun to ice with fanning in his face with a
    peacock’s feather. You’ll never trust his word
    after! come, ’tis a foolish saying.

    KING HENRY V Your reproof is something too round: I should be
    angry with you, if the time were convenient.

    WILLIAMS Let it be a quarrel between us, if you live.

    KING HENRY V I embrace it.

    WILLIAMS How shall I know thee again?

    KING HENRY V Give me any gage of thine, and I will wear it in my
    bonnet: then, if ever thou darest acknowledge it, I
    will make it my quarrel.

    WILLIAMS Here’s my glove: give me another of thine.

    KING HENRY V There.

    WILLIAMS This will I also wear in my cap: if ever thou come
    to me and say, after to-morrow, ‘This is my glove,’
    by this hand, I will take thee a box on the ear.

    KING HENRY V If ever I live to see it, I will challenge it.

    WILLIAMS Thou darest as well be hanged.

    KING HENRY V Well. I will do it, though I take thee in the
    king’s company.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

    Brian Stansell

    A very good observation, Bethany @sparrowhawke.

    There are many biblical allusions made in Shakespeare’s works.  I believe this one in the quote references:

    What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. [Matthew 10:29-31 NLT]

    It speaks of not only God’s providence but also of how He values us personally in such a detailed and specific way.  It also speaks to how meticulous His attentions and intentions are toward us.

    Because He demonstratively loves us so much, we can trust His intentions and instructions to be good, but our jobs is, as you said, willingness and readiness to respond to the calling and place He wishes us to go.

    Emily @emily-waldorf

    Yes, I do tend to prefer the Mel Gibson version.  You are correct.  I think it is the most respectful and appreciative of the actual text and it takes its cues from the wording, rather than attempting to impose the “artsy” filmmaker’s interpretation on it.

    Too many film adaptations stray from the author’s original text and instead present the interpretation as the most important.  Think about it this way.  If one of your future novels were to be made into a film, how insulted would you be if the filmographer and by extensions the actors so reworked your novel that you no longer recognized it and instead used the popularity of your novel to promote some “woke propaganda” to the fans of your work.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty mad.  Especially if the movie’s message was immoral or mocked the Christian theme behind it.  It would drive away readers that might have wanted to check out my book, because of the movie.

    I just don’t trust Hollywood to not do this.  Too many directors and producers are more in love with their own vision rather than appreciative of the artist that brought the story into being.

    I think Mel does a better job because he seems to take his cues from the text to determine what the mindset of the character is, rather than breaking with convention and tradition.  I think he actually respects the text and this comes through in his acting.

    When I was in grad school I had this self-styled “liberal” professor in a poetic literature class that seemed to try to make the text we were reading have “sexual innuendo” in almost every line.  It was extremely annoying.  I read and re-read the text and could never get the perverse vibe that she took from it, and finally ended up dropping that class and switching to a professor that was a little less “woke” and actually loved and appreciated the literature he taught, rather than pushing some agenda.

    Unfortunately, that bad experience made me have more of an aversion to reading the works of the poet (Walt Whitman) we were then studying, because of the memory of the perverse slant and “modern” biases of the teacher.  Films can do the same thing, so I always recommend reading the original work to make your first impression, rather than letting Hollywood destroy the experience by their filtered reinterpretation.

    If I were to run across that teacher again, I might be tempted to tell her exactly what she could do with her own “Leaves of Grass,” but my Christian conscience won’t allow me the momentary satisfaction.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

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