Friday, March 28, 2014
A Text Session Part 2
Welcome back! As we move along with this scene, I will not include the massive blocks of definitions for variant spellings, capitalized or unfamiliar words. Just remember that those words require special attention. For the sake of these blog entrees, I will make some choices, but these are by no means the only choices to be made.
So let’s get back to work. Moving along to the next block of text:
I trulie: for the power of Beautie, will sooner
transforme Honestie from what it is, to a Bawd, then the
force of Honestie can translate Beautie into his likenesse.
This was sometime a Paradox, but now the time gives it
proofe. I did love you once.
Hamlet’s cue repeats his word ‘Honesty’ that he used earlier – don’t worry that it’s capitalized in the cue, that’s not his line, but it is significant that ‘Honesty” is being repeated. The word is obviously an important one, and it should be used, maybe as a weapon, maybe as something being bonded over, but attention must be paid.
‘I trulie.’ ‘I’ could be the first person singular pronoun, meaning ‘Truly me.’ It could be an abbreviation for ‘ay’ meaning ‘yes,’ or ‘aye’ meaning ‘forever.’ Pick one, the play does not hinge on these two words. Throughout this block, Honesty and Beauty are repeated, always capitalized. Pay attention. ‘Bawd,’ a false woman, is set in opposition to ‘Honesty.’ It is a difference that can be physicalized, so physicalize it. ‘Paradox,’ is another capitalized word, and is set against ‘proofe.’
‘I did love you once,’ uses ‘you,’ and being impersonal, gives the line blocking that backs up the meaning of the line.
The following block of text does not contain any capitalized words, but there is some tricky stuff. Again, Hamlet is repeating a word in his cue. (Repeated words do not always appear in the cue line, so always pay attention.) ‘Innoculate’ and ‘relish’ are words that we don’t use very often, so be familiar with their meanings. ‘Vertue’ is spelled differently than we are used to. ‘I loved you not.’ Here is a change, since Hamlet is contradicting what he last said. Play the change.
Now we get to the meat of this section. ‘Get thee to a Nunnerie.’
First of all, this is such a famous line, beware the baggage. In all performance it is important to come to it fresh as if it is the first time, but there is an added danger with classical theatre, especially Shakespeare. So much of what he wrote has become catch phrases and buzzwords in today’s society, and that meaning creeps in no matter what we, as performers, do. It is important to minimize that impact on your interpretation, and make the line yours.
Hamlet’s biggest shift in the scene appears in this line. ‘Get THEE to a Nunnerie.’ For the first time, he says ‘thee’ which means he is invading someone’s personal space. Any time there is a shift in the mode of address, this signals something is changing in the character and the actor should play this change. Physicalize it and make it as big as possible. Maybe Hamlet is speaking to someone new on the scene. Maybe not. How this shift is made is up to the actor in the moment, because until the moment of performance, he is unaware of the situation.
In this block of text ‘Nunerie,’ Sinners,’ ‘Mother,’ ‘Ambitious,’ ‘Fellowes,’ ‘Heaven,’ ‘Earth,’ ‘Knaves,’ ‘Nunnery’ and ‘Father’ are all capitalized. These words are important to the sense of the speech and should be given weight in their delivery and physicality. Hamlet has a list of attributes: ‘prowd (notice the spelling), revengefull, Ambitious,’ all which should be physicailzed. There is also a bit of stage direction for himself: ‘…with more offences at my becke, then I have thoughts to put them in imagination, to givethem shape, or time to acte them in.’ What are these offences? That’s the actor’s choice, but it is evident that there is some attempt to show us what they are.
In that last line, notice the placement of the comma in the list after ‘imagination’ and not before. Logically, it should be set up so that the thoughts run:
thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape,
or time to acte them in.
Instead, it runs:
thoughts to put them in imagination,
to give them shape,
or time to acte them in.
Could this be a mis-print? Possibly. But play the comma, the inflection that it invokes on ‘imagination’ and see what happens. Hamlet doesn’t sound logical. Something, literally, will not sound right if the punctuation is followed. Follow it.
Also of note is that the word ‘nunnery’ appears twice in this block, and is spelled differently both times. Why? Was there some typographical confusion in these 10 lines at the printing house? Did they need to conserve I’s and E’s at these points on the page? Maybe. Or it’s a clue. Treat it as a clue and see what turns up. Nunnery becomes a very important word, and should be looked up.
Also note that Hamlet uses ‘we’ and plurals of ‘Fellowes’ and ‘Knaves.’ ‘Beleeve none of us.’ Even if there is an army on stage, this is a wonderful time to include the audience. Include the audience in the performance.
We will leave it here for today, and pick up with the rest next time. I hope that it is becoming apparent just how much is in the text – not for the scholars, although they, too, have an embarrassment of riches – but for the actors performing the role in the way of stage directions and clues to the characters.
Shakespeare, William, Neil Freeman, and Paul Sugarman. The Applause First Folio of Shakespeare in Modern Type. New York: Applause, 2001. Print.