How many of these familiar expressions do you know? “… The mind’s eye … The primrose path … Neither a borrower nor a lender be … This above all: to thine own self be true … Brevity is the soul of wit … Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t … There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so … O, woe is me … Hoist with his own petard … I must be cruel, only to be kind … The cat will mew and dog will have his day … The rest is silence …”
These sayings and many more were all either invented in, or popularized by, Shakespeare’s great play, Hamlet. It’s hard to read the text without a sense of deep recognition, as the language of the play has become part of our general language. We’ll read and share this tragedy that begins with the stern ghost of a dead king urging his smart and sensitive son to revenge his death, and continues with a domineering mother, a callous step-father, a foolish (or wise?) old counselor, a despairing lover–and some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful language. What should we choose, among conflicting necessities? When must parents be defied? How do we know what’s true? Can anything penetrate our essential solitude? We’ll discuss these questions and more. No reading for our first meeting, which will be an introduction.
Cammy Thomas has a PhD in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she wrote her dissertation on the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. She has published two books of poems, Cathedral of Wish, and Inscriptions. A third book, Tremors, is forthcoming in 2021, all from Four Way Books. She has taught literature and creative writing for many years, and lives in Lexington.