At the end of Chapter 16, I made a reference to a passage in Hamlet, that I will discuss in a minute. My knowledge of that passage came as a result of being in a production of Hamlet by the Brandywiners at Longwood Gardens, in southeastern Pennsylvania in 1971. The Brandywiners have put on a summer extravaganza performance each summer at Longwood for 90 years. Their history is quite interesting and you can read it HERE. Longwood is a former duPont estate that has an outdoor stage that is 62′ by 32′, large enough that we had a live horse in our production. You can read of the spectacular features of Longwood Gardens HERE.
Hamlet, as you probably know has more quotable phrases than any play ever written. I played Marcellus, one of the guards who sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father. I was privileged to deliver, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” It takes a surprising amount of skill to deliver that line in a large outdoor venue and have it sound normal and natural.
Our Polonius was played by a dear man who played the best Polonius that I have ever seen anywhere. He delivered his lines with a sense of the importance of every word, as they deserved. I especially liked his delivery to his daughter Ophelia of, “Affection, Puh! You talk like a green girl unsifted in such perilous circumstance.”
He was at his best, though in his advice to his son Laertes, as he was leaving for France. Here it is in it’s entirety:
Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy (rich, not gaudy),
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
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.
Our performance was just before I left for Boston to attend piano tuning school.