Thursday night, we went to Dartmouth to watch the National Theatre broadcast of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet. A fitting way to launch Halloween weekend, ghost story that it is.
(If you have a chance to see broadcast in your town, definitely go. Cumberbatch’s performance wasn’t the only one worth seeing. Siân Brooke was a heartbreaking Ophelia, Anastasia Hille a mesmerizing Gertrude, and Ciarán Hinds a terrifying Claudius… oh, and the set and staging were delicious.)
It’s cliche to say, I know, but it doesn’t matter how many times we see this play: each time we see it as new, we feel it as new. Like any great story you’ve heard a hundred times, the pleasure is in the retelling. Each time you’re lost in the tale as if for the first time, while at the same time basking in the familiarity.
The ghost of Hamlet’s father sighs piteously, “What a falling off was there…,” and the hairs on my neck stand on end. I feel his suffering each time.
Hamlet begins “To be or not to be” and you think, “well, here comes this old saw again”…and yet, by the time he’s made it to death, “the undiscovered Country, from whose bourn / No Traveller returns,” you’re in his grip. Again.
Gluttons for repetition, this afternoon we rewatched David Tennant’s version. And then Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, for good measure. Again.
I feel toasted and spread thick with Shakespeare’s words this evening.
November’s come again.
Talk about repetition.
That old familiar story, the paring down of voluptuous summer to what is essential.
The gardens, such as they are, are put to bed. The firewood is stacked. The blueberry bushes are mulched and blanketed in hay. The beehives are insulated and quiet (at least from the outside). The hose is emptied and ready to be coiled away. The porch swing is tucked up on its shorter chains, against the wind, and to allow more room for firewood on the porch. The goats’ hooves are trimmed. The hay barn is full.
We’ve done this all before. Cleaned the cupboards of the season and steadied ourselves for the time of bare limbs, sharp stars, and long nights. We’ll do it again a year from now, if we’re lucky.
The clocks changed. Again. An extra hour of darkness tonight, to use any way we wish. Maybe to write a story. A new story, that is the same old story.
Tell it again. Tell it again.