When students asked, “Why do we have to read all this literature?” I told them it would help them to play Jeopardy. You never know when Alex Trebek will ask you a question. Since leaving the classroom, I’ve come up with other reasons. Here’s one I wrote about back in 2012.
At HEB this afternoon, having verified that I had, indeed, spent my last sou on a cup of coffee at Waterloo Writers, I ran my credit card through the scanner. The resulting screen read, Select Tender Type.
Such a formal, old-fashioned word for this new-fangled device.
Polonius: What is between you? give me up the truth.
Ophelia: He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.
Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.
Polonius: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby;
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;
Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus–you’ll tender me a fool.
Poor Ophelia. She was a sweet thing, and young, and the men in her life treated her so shabbily.
But even though Polonius belittles his daughter to her face, the way Shakespeare moves tender through the passage, varying its meaning from one line to the next, renders the speech remarkable. As Hamlet later implies, Polonius is a rat—and he pays for his treachery a couple of acts down the road—but the old man has a way with words.
Capulet: How! will she none? doth she not give us thanks?
Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom?
Juliet: Not proud, you have; but thankful, that you have:
Proud can I never be of what I hate;
But thankful even for hate, that is meant love.
Capulet: How now, how now, chop-logic! What is this?
‘Proud,’ and ‘I thank you,’ and ‘I thank you not;’
And yet ‘not proud,’ mistress minion, you,
Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds,
But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,
To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage!
“Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds, / But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,…” Beautiful. Those are the words of an angry man. Just seeing them on the page gives me the shivers.
To some, Capulet sounds like a terrible father, but, as I pointed out to my freshmen, year after year, Juliet started it. She was rude and disrespectful. Her father didn’t know she was already married to Romeo; he thought she would be thrilled to marry the wealthy and handsome Paris. But she behaved like a brat. It’s no wonder Capulet threatened to drag her on a hurdle thither.
These two female characters present an interesting contrast: Ophelia refuses to speak for herself; Juliet shouts. But neither one lasts to the end of Act V.
A scholarly paper might lurk in there somewhere: “Shakespeare’s Women: A Study of the Consequences of Self-Actualization Within the Context of the Father-Daughter Relationship Complicated by Nascent Heterosexual Bonding, with a Focus on Hamlet’s Ophelia and Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet.”
Or maybe not.
By the time I finished with the Capulets, the cashier had almost finished with the scanning. While she bagged the items, I pondered the relationship between the name of Jason FForde’s protagonist, Thursday Next, and the once-projected date for Juliet’s wedding.
Then I remembered that Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King contains a line echoing Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds. I don’t remember which character says it, and I’ve not been able to locate it online; I guess if I’ll have to re-read the entire Idylls just to ease my mind.
But I recognized other lines that drifted across the screen: Guinevere, jealous of Elaine, takes up Lancelot’s gift of diamonds
And thro’ the casement standing wide for heat
Flung them and down they flash’d, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flash’d, as it were
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.
That image—diamonds falling into the sunlit stream, and water splashing up, like diamonds to meet them—has been with me for thirty-five years and will remain when the rest of the book has passed from memory.
Well. By the end of my reverie, the cashier and I had completed our transaction. I wheeled the groceries to the car. End of shopping.
End of post.
Except to observe that I stood for ten minutes in one of the most boring places imaginable and forgot to be bored.
I was busy elsewhere.
Here are some A to Z Challenge blogs–and some not A to Z Challenge blogs–you might like to visit.
Images from Wikipedia:
“Ophelia” by John William Waterhouse
“Juliet” by John William Waterhouse