Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lenten Entertainment

To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you
Why is it that the players will receive lenten entertainment? I know what this means - the players will get a mopey, bum audience. But parsing it's kinda hard.


Matt said...

So I am going to answer my own question. The use of entertainment here is not "entertainment" as "stuff that's fun to watch" like movies, but rather "entertainment" means "the manner of reception of guests and the like" - entertainment in the sense of "Do you enjoy entertaining? Yes, we have guests over all the time." OED confirms this use of the word in Shakespeare.

So a good translation of the phrase "lenten entertainment" might be "chilly reception". That would be the more modern phrase, I feel.

Jason Goldman said...

Nice one. Totally makes sense. I had constructed this whole theory about how there was something post-modern going on and this was Shakespeare's nod that Hamlet was a character in a play who was there to "entertain." Oh well.

Whatever the players were expecting, I doubt they enjoy the lengthy lecture they receive at the top of III.ii: "do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus" etc. I read some note once that says that part is all some inside joke about the state of acting at the time.

Needless to say, it's not the most timeless part of Hamlet.

warm fuzzy said...

I had a theory that I had no idea what the hell that post was about.

Matt said...

In Hamlet, Hamlet's pissed because his dad is dead. After his dad's ghost tells Hamlet to whack the guy who's since married Hamlet's mom and taken charge of Denmark, Hamlet starts acting erratically. The royals get Hamlet's old friends to come by and chat with Hamlet, to see what's up. When they do, they ask Hamlet how he's doing.

Hamlet says that he no longer delights in things which are delightful, among them "man," which is something that, apparently, is quite "a piece of work."

So Hamlet says "man delights not
me", at which point one of Hamlet's friends giggles, Hamlet says, "I'm no fag!", and then the dude says the bit which I've quoted.

The friend says that if he doesn't delight in man, he's not going to like the players who're coming by to deliver a show.

And then Hamlet later offers some dramatic criticism which is really boring because Hamlet's really bitching about the state of the theater circa 1600, and that's just a joke that's not going to be interesting to anybody reading it four hundred years later.

This scene is included, in its painful entirety, in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.