Look Out, I’m Inhabiting Hamlet

Good lord.

Sometimes I forget that I shouldn’t just charge in to watch or (try to) read just any old thing these days. My sensitivity to plunging mood is much amplified these days. And, it appears I seem to be slipping into iambic pentameter as well (it’s curious, really, because it’s a habit or gist more than it is something that requires conscious thought and calculation). Shakespeare becomes more miraculous to me every day.

In my time of abridged abilities (i.e., all of 2007 and a good part of the tail end of 2006) I turn to television. Videos, really. I’ve gone through just about all the Blu-ray titles in existence that I care to watch (netflix has them all), and have since fallen back to DVDs again. Over the years I have acquired many movie versions of Shakespeare’s plays, including two versions of Hamlet. They weren’t my first choice for Hamlet, but until very recently, the version I truly wanted, Branaugh’s nearly-four-hour unabridged version, wasn’t available even on the humble DVD. But Amazon now says it will be available, after 11 years, come August! I’m psyched for that. I’ve only ever seen it once, and that was back in 1996—the year it came out—at the Embarcadero Theaters with a guy I was dating at the time. The movie clocked in at 3 hours, 45 minutes, or thereabouts, with a real, live intermission at the 3-hour mark. Such a throwback.

Last night and today I watched “Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark” on DVD from a 1980 performance which included Derek Jacobi as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart—in wig and beard—as Claudius. It was only now that I realized that Patrick Stewart and Sam have the same eyes, dark and shiny yet far from cold.

Jacobi, in all things, is a wonder. From The Master in Doctor Who, to Francis Bacon in Love is the Devil, to Hamlet in 1980 and then Claudius in 1996, this man can do no wrong. He’s one of those on the short list of “people I’m glad are gay”.

Patrick Stewart took a serious risk in playing Claudius as not so much evil as weak and misguided and a quite impotently repentant. It works, though.

So yes, I get invested in quite a few things that I watch, but it’s a real danger to my own disposition and optimism when the show’s over. I could offer countless quotes from the play—there are dozens of them that are still in common use today!—but there are three which bound my life and my thoughts lately:

“When sorrows come,
they come not single spies
But in battalions.”

I didn’t even know this one qualified as one of the more famous quotes! I just heard it while watching and thought it landed square in the middle of my fortunes of late.

“’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and
Hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world”

Related to the first quote I pulled, I suppose, but there’s something satisfying about blaming Hell instead of accepting that “shit happens”. I can see why the theists cotton to this sort of thing. Finger-wagging is quite energizing.

“My words fly up; my thoughts remain below.
Words without thought ne’er to heaven go.”

This one, in context, speaks more of earnestness of true-faith proposition in prayers, but it’s a welcome rarity that the more literal interpretation is the one that holds more value for me than its meaning. For whatever I can write, there are a hundred or thousand things I think about which are stunted before they can fly because I can’t pay so much attention to them to give them wings.

YojimboIn hopes of turning this around in at least some way, I opted to employ software tools to help me remember the little flights of fanciful thought that pass but otherwise would go unremembered and useless. There are several of these “capture” apps for Macintosh, but the one I’m using (still in its 30-day full-featured demo) is Yojimbo. I can grab urls or even bits of text and drag those I deem worth holding onto and drop them over the “Yojimbo” tab on the right side of my screen and it opens up to whatever categories I have created. After that, I can tag any item so it’s more easily retrieved later on. So far so good. I’ll probably end up buying it when the demo is over.

I suppose it may be age to blame for the loss of mental abilities, but that’s even less of a comfort than blaming the constant pain in my neck and the frequent flare-ups of pain in my head. Pain can be temporary; age is forever.

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