On Seeing Hamlet

As part of the online course Shakespeare’s Hamlet I’m supposed to write an imaginary blog post in the person of an Elizabethan spectator who has just seen a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Here’s my contribution.


At the theatre today. Came out disappointed. But now, I’m not so sure. Went with Rodick. He’s heard about the play from some friends of his. But apparently, it was a different play, or at least the same play but by a different author. Anyway, he was disappointed. We had quite an argument over it. He was looking forward to something quite different. A real swashbuckler with blood and thunder with an avenging hero. To be honest, I felt a bit like him but couldn’t help feeling that what we got was something far more satisfying. No satisfying is not the word. How can revenge – blood revenge – be satisfying. Yes sure, if you’re God with a God’s eye all seeing perspective, then satisfying probably is the word as there can be no doubt. But for humans, there must always be some kind of nagging doubt.

To be honest, all this is only coming to me now that I’ve had a chance to let it settle and think things through. When we came out, I argued quite strongly with Rodick, but wasn’t really sure what I thought. I felt there was just something about this play which set it apart from others. Some of the things I said were quite stupid. For example, when I declared the role of Ophelia was only there to tantalize the audience with the prospect of a bit of bawdiness before the end of the play. Well, both Polonius and Laertes seem to pave the way for this when they talk to her. But would such a master playwright really stoop so low. Maybe. But this guy is different. He goes deep. He poses questions and suggests the answers may be totally different from what we’re used to. That’s what I think now anyway. But with Rodick I just wasn’t able to get this across. Maybe, the play just needs time to meditate on before coming to any conclusions. That’s why I want to go back tomorrow. Still not sure how I will find the penny entrance. Maybe I can sweet talk Rosa into getting me in as one of the hands.

I guess that’s what it really boils down to. Getting to see the play as often as I can and hoping it somehow rubs off on me. Then, I argue things through with Rodick again; this time from a much more informed position. He wants to go and see the version by Kyd and want me to go with him. But from what he tells me, I don’t find it all that appealing. There’s a lot of action, sure but the depth which I only began to scratch at earlier, just isn’t there. Well, perhaps I will go. Maybe, I can make a deal with him to go and see that and then go and see Shakespeare’s version again. Perhaps something will rub off on him.

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Speed Dating – Old Style

The moment the band announced The Bear’s Circle, I pulled my sister-in-law up onto the dance floor with a previously unknown vigour. Janet’s surprise was visible but she said nothing. Now I just had to make sure we were standing close enough to her that we would meet before the music was over. With this number of participants, not every would get a turn with everyone else. Anyway all I’d get would be ten seconds; ten fleeting seconds to get her to notice me.

I had no idea who she was. I didn’t even know why I found her particularly attractive. She wasn’t one of the beauties Janet was trying to persuade me to ask for a dance. And she wasn’t being asked by other men very often either. There was just something about her, something that made me want to get close. Of course, I could just have gone up to her and asked her to dance. Like Janet was trying to persuade me to do with her list of eligibles. But I just know, I could never do that. I’d either freeze up or start babbling away like an idiot. So I stood in the circle, Janet to my right and counted the couples between us and her: Five. That should mean I’d get my ten second fling – in and out, in and out, circle around and swing – before handing her on to the next partner. Actually, with this band, the usual ten seconds would probably last another two or three. Not that that made any difference. If I couldn’t make my mark in ten seconds, an extra three weren’t going to help. But how was I to get her to notice me? I’d smile, of course, but that wouldn’t go far. I may even be able to put in a word, but which one? What would impress her?

We were moving by now and I’d already changed partners once. She was a good dancer. I could see her moving out of the corner of my eye. Perhaps if I spiced up the swing a bit, that would make me stand out from the rest. But she didn’t seem the type for those kind of antics. And neither was I. Besides, if I got it wrong we could both end up in a mess on the floor. A few more changes of partners and there she was on my left. Another ten seconds and she’d be dancing with me. How was I going to make them count? In and out, in and out, circle round, swing and… that’s when it happened. He must have been wanting to make an impression too, the guy before me. Just as he was about to pass her on to me, down she went. He stumbled but managed to stay on his feet. Before I knew it, I was down on one knee helping her up. With the others dancers passing us by, I waleked her over to the chairs and sat down next to her. It was only now I realised, I’d missed my chance. But I didn’t really care. For now, I had at least until the end of the dance to make my mark.

Inspired by today’s author’s Write Now prompt: “You have ten seconds…”
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Massacre on Ranton Beach

Well, it will make a difference from the four weeks and still no rain type headings screaming out at me from every newspaper stand I pass.

And the bare facts will no doubt be followed by a detailed description of events so far known. I wonder how the papers will describe it: tragic, inevitable, gory? As to what they will say about the victims, I can’t say… I don’t know myself yet, and won’t know for at least another hour. Doubtless, they’ll all have a go at explaining what made me do it. Experts will pronounce on my state of mind without even knowing what’s in it.

Yet in a way, these headlines come closer to explaining than any of the experts psychobabble. You see, we met here. In those days, there was little likelihood of four weeks sunshine. Myself, I’d waited two days before heading to the beach, but Sam had never been one for procrastinating. That very first evening she’d stretched herself out to soak in those mercurial rays. We met within the hour of my arrival. Three days of bliss followed. She was back the following weekend and our relationship was sealed with a promise: “No, I’ll never leave you.”

Yet, she couldn’t keep that promise, not once the cancer set in. She struggled but the sun had already wreaked its havoc on her once so velvet-smooth skin.

That’s why I come back here: to mourn. But to mourn you have to remember and remember was the one thing I couldn’t do – not with these crowds. I’d see her face everywhere but each time a different face: blankness, confusion. They won’t let me remember. They’d have to go.

And go, they will. As the rains hadn’t come to scatter them, then tomorrow’s headline would. And I would have all the solitude I need to remember.

That’s why I’m here today, winding my way between the laughing groups in search of my prey. Can you see me? Then, get out of the way for your own sake. But you can’t, can you? Oh sure, you can see an elderly, grey-haired man picking his way through the mass of bodies. What you can’t see is the real me, the perpetrator of tomorrow’s shocking headline.

I hear a laugh. My eyes focus in on a familiar scene. So that will be the headline. “Mother and toddler massacred on Ranton beach.”

My hand slips into the pocket of my jacket and my fingers close around the cold metal. I try to repress a smile as I move into range. Just then, a cloud comes over the mother’s face. Her smile disappears briefly. She mouths “No” to her daughter.

Yes, it’s Sam, my Sam just as I remember her all those years ago when she gave me her “no”. I remember, I can mourn. No need for a massacre now. But the newspaper editor will have to come up with another new and interesting way of saying it had been four weeks and one day and still the rains hadn’t come.

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Prompt: A World Apart

It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in Sunday Scribblings. Indeed, it had been a long time since I’ve written anything much until a few days ago. This week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt is A World Apart.

our eyes have never met
perhaps they never shall e’en so
that gap is bridged
as fingers every day relate
two kindred minds reach out

two lives so different
experienced worlds far apart
melt as words give shape
drawing pictures stoking life
into longing only now avowed

You can read more musings on this theme by going to http://sundayscribblings.blogspot.fr/

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Another Tanka

I have a friend who’s a schoolteacher and sometimes gets frustrated at the lack of reception she gets from her students. She enjoys baking to compensate for this. So here’s a tanka sequence poem in her honour.

these copies repel
red ink tear-smudged offerings
life’s work down to this
where the dreams once so cherished
of touching lives transforming

the sticky mass hugs
kneading fingers pounding fists
beating back the doubt
relief reigns as nose eyes tongue
ravish the golden-brown bake

sorrows amidst joys
precariously balancing
walking life’s tightrope
through all-encompassing mists
and sparse slants of simmering sun

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FGC #7 Tanka

This week’s Form and Genre Challenge is to write a Tanka. A Tanka is a five line Japanese poem which uses 31 syllables in all. This is my first attempt at writing a Tanka although I have tried my hand at the shorter Haiku form before. For this challenge I wrote several different Tankas. Below are the four I submitted to my beta readers. The top one, written in honour of my daughter’s 20th birthday, is my challenge entry.

Small and fragile in my arms
now small, not fragile
twenty years on still such joy.
Soon roles reversed as
me she cradles in her arms.


This one was written after last week’s Wales v France rugby match. Before the game I sang alone – I was the only Welshman present – the Welsh national anthem much to the surprise of most of the gathered Frenchmen:

My voice rings out, pride and joy
shatters silence, shocks.
Welsh you know, how can I ought.
Birds fly, lions prey,
Welsh, our song ne’er will fail.

And this one was written at the library contemplating the mass of books available to me and other hungry readers:

Big and small and fat and thin
novels, essays, more;
their voice rings out
t’is honey to my mind,
but to my heart, bitter herbs.

I’ve just finished reading a book by a friend about the experience of widowhood. Hence this last one:

One last time the flame climbs high
I hope vain, false hope
such hope betrays, lets me down.
And solitude reigns
as stiffened eyes I close

Please read the other entries in this week’s challenge and vote for you favourite on the Write Anything website.

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FGC #5 Reversal

Victim of the Man bites dog incident, Qi stared as he deposited the muzzle in front of me. Never had a sentence been so eloquently pleaded.

(139 characters)

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