I see there’s a casting call for “Hamlet.” I wonder if any septuagenarians have ever played the title role. It offers a chance for redemption, though my main chance, I suppose, is Polonius.
I still remember parts of the soliloquies that I mostly forgot in what was nevertheless a tediously long four-hour production at the Hill School on prom weekend in 1958.
“Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseam’d bed, stewed in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty. . . .” Those lines, though perhaps not quite as written, come immediately to mind.
Actually, at the time — I was 18 then — to be honeying and making love over the nasty sty was for me a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Of course I thought I was wonderful, but an English teacher who was better known for peeking under the chassis of cars with a flashlight to catch furtive lovers during those exceedingly rare unnatural heterosexual weekends, protested that I had played Hamlet as if he were crazy.
I probably did go a little overboard, but then I was a hot-blooded and pimply youth, and my father, who didn’t think much of the play, told me not to be awed simply because Shakespeare wrote it.
“ . . . Out, out, brief candle. . . .” No, no that’s Macbeth. . . . I did that too, a few scenes of it when I first arrived at the school. “ ’Til Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane I shall not taint with fear. What’s the boy, Malcolm? Was he not born of woman. . . ? Lay on MacDuff and damned be he who cries, ‘Hold, enough!’ ”
There was no living with me then. I knew nothing and thought I knew everything. Now, I know — to the depths of my soul — that I know nothing, and am, if not happy with this knowledge gained, at least at ease with it.
I would make a more reflective Hamlet now. Crazy no more. (Still weird, though.) “Alas, poor Yorick.
. . . There would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creep in their petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. . . . Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a poor player who struts and frets his way upon the stage and then is heard no more. . . .”
And that’s as good an exit line as any, don’t you think?