Well, that’s up to the law of the draw then, innit?
From freshly escaping breath to philosophic waxing over bones longer gone…
There’s a lot of death in Act Five of Hamlet.
We’ve now worked slowly through the two most morbid scenes and quite a bit has been unearthed, as it were.
As we draw near the end of the play, scenes adopt a structure where they start out in one tone before taking a sharp turn towards the tragic. Usually inspired by Ophelia.
For 5.1, though still a morbid start, there’s quick wit and joviality abound in the earlier lines.
I jotted this poem after a rehearsal in re: the diggers.
Gallows humor gravemakersSamie Jo Johnson
Using their skeletons
Still coated in skin
To scoff lightly in the earth
And laugh with the eternal.
There’s an affinity for such scoffing done by the gravediggers, or “clowns” as they’re called in some editions of the play, among many of our ensemble members. Putting out a call for favorite lines from these scenes yielded praise for his irreverence and foolery.
Keenan Odenkirk made the observation that this fellow has “pessimistic opinions about the living, and prefers the company of the dead.” Elizabeth M. Quilter made the observation that Prince Hamlet is no longer playing the fool. The clown appears as a separate character (two, if you count Yorick) in time for Hamlet to make his heroic return. (Whether he’s soon to be dead or the King of Denmark, he’s ready. And this involves less foolery.)
Further musing on our characters and the dead led us to marvel that there’s a particular poetry in our double casting choice that the Gravedigger looks an awfully lot like Hamlet’s late father.
Exactly like. They’re played by the same actor.
This actor walks the line of life and death through our entire 90 minute dive into a play that is, in many ways, all about life and death. They begin as a ghost, end lying (which is to say not-truth-telling) in a grave, and make an excursion to act out a play-within-a-play about a murder along the way.
Naturally, we’ve discussed a bit of death.
Some of us stayed quiet about our closeness to corpses. I, for one, have avoided observation as best I can through my family’s open casket traditions, and the only corpse I wish I could’ve kissed an earthly goodbye was turned to ash while I made the journey home.
Keenan and Jordan Golding have had more vivid experiences around cadavers whose ends were violently met. Jordan G. witnessed a murder in the second grade and Keenan saw a body pulled out of a river in a trash bag 20 feet away from where he was. Of this harrowing experience, Keenan had to say:
“I remember his socks the most. He wore white, calve length socks that had been partially pulled off and knocked askew by the river.”Keenan Odenkirk
Jordan McGinnis, different Jordan from the one who witnessed a murder, let slip at rehearsal that he had prior job experience as none other than a gravedigger himself! Though he did not interact directly with the bodies, he’s no stranger to making a dent in the ground. He informed us that they’re more layered and vaulted now than they were 400 hundred years ago. Those “dents” of course being “holes to put people in” or “final resting holes” as we alternatively referred to graves in dictionary work.
The collection of lived experience and earthly memories that the gravedigger will carry in their bones will depend on which fingers select the “10” card each night.
Having said hello to the end, now in rehearsals we will draw backwards from our characters reaching their resting holes and dance toward the tragedy and insanity of Act Four.
And also pirates. The pirate story is in Act Four.