I read Hamlet for the first time in 6th grade. Being a dramatic little girl, I thought I would die for love of it. It was the most MOST thing I’d ever read. Most beautiful. Most meaningful. Most wonderful. Most confusing–I’ll be honest. I didn’t get a lot of it at 12, but what I got was enough to make me fall in love with Shakespeare for the rest of my born days. (This was the same year I had the meltdown that ended with me screaming lines from The Merchant of Venice. Moral of the story: Be sure your children are ready to handle The Bard before you hand them a copy of his unabridged works.)
For some reason, I was thinking about that today. I was telling my friend, Rob, that I’d remembered how I had projected my crush for Hamlet onto my Lit teacher, Mr. Cargyle*. I could not love Hamlet in the flesh, so I loved this 50-something-year-old Confirmed Bachelor instead. In fact, he was the first person I heard use that term. Little girls would ask him why he wasn’t married, and he would say, “Darlings, I am a confirmed bachelor.” I thought it meant he hadn’t met the right woman, yet. i.e., I wasn’t old enough to date properly.
This was at a private school, and for some reason the teacher’s phone numbers were published in a directory sent home with the students. Y’all…I called that poor man. You know, just to talk. He was so kind. So was that other nice man who answered his phone.
That made me start remembering the teachers I had at that school. A few years after I’d left there, I would end up in an acting class with the teacher who had replaced my drama teacher (a woman who was fired for saying inappropriate things to little girls**.) Not knowing I had been a student there, he went off on a rant about all those “little rich bitches and their c-nting parents.” He did not like Shakespeare. He liked Chekhov. He wanted me to learn a monologue from The Seagull. I wanted me to learn a monologue from The Tempest. We butted heads, he and I. I wasn’t rich, but I’m sure he’d have categorized me right along with the rest of those little bitches.
Kenneth Branagh is the authority for Shakespeare, in my book. His Hamlet was transcendent. Karen and I went to see that at the Inwood, and I remember us sitting there and the noises coming out of us were not even human. His Henry V is perfection, and I was obsessed with his Othello for about a year. I pretend he never did Much Ado because…Keanu Reeves***? Really?
And to sum up, here is one of the most romantic scenes in all of Shakespeare. I could watch this scene a thousand times and still grin like a monkey.
I know. I know. It’s no great love scene, but I love it! I do wonder how hard it is to kiss Kenneth Branagh, though, as he has no discernible lips.
*Voice-to-Text translated this to Argyle Argyle, making my story very confusing.
**Things like, “Have you ever considered the possibility that you are insane?” Something she asked me when I was describing the colored balls I would see floating in the air just before my head would explode in pain, or one of those debilitating stomach aches would start. I had not ever considered that possibility, but you’d better believe my Gothic Romance Loving Self did after that! Would I end up like Mr. Rochester’s first wife? Or like Cathy Earnshaw? Or like poor, poor Ophelia? *flail* Years later I would realize those were the warning bells for migraines, not that I was getting headaches because I was afraid of the colored balls.
***Although, Tom Hiddleston credits that production as being what drew him in to Shakespeare because it starred Denzel Washington and Reeves–action stars in a Shakespeare movie! So, I forgive AND forget.