Thursday, March 10, 2011

II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - French Rock Opera

Halliday's Fishmonger Scene does away with Polonius entirely and makes it about Hamlet's reading, and in so doing gives us a reflective, personal song that intersects with various ideas in the play. You can listen to it HERE, and I follow the text with a rough translation.

Je lis
Quand la vie est jolie, jolie, je lis
Quand il fait triste, et il fait gris, je lis
Quand je suis seul dans mon lit, je lis
Quand même les rêves me fuient, je lis
Quand je cherche un coin d’oubli, je lis
Quand j’ai besoin d’un alibi, je lis
Quand on me sonne l'hallali, je lis
Quand je perds le goût de la vie, je lis
Quand je lis, je lis, je lis quoi ?
Des mots…

I read
When life is pretty, pretty, I read
When it is sad, and it is gray, I read
When I'm alone in my bed, I read
When even my dreams desert me, I read
When I look for a forgotten corner, I read
When I need an alibi, I read
When they trumpet the kill, I read
When I lose the taste for life, I read
When I read, I read, I read what?

The short song has Hamlet reading, rain or shine, homogenizing his life which he will later compare to a prison. Most of the lines speak to his fatalism, undercutting the hopefulness of the first in which the near homonyms jolie (pretty) and je lis (I read) are playfully confused. The song could almost be sung with jolie (pretty) in place of je lis (I read) throughout, extending the irony. Is Ophelia on Hamlet's mind still? Is his loneliness (colored by his reading books, to use Polonius' words in a later scene) making his mind wander from the page to the love of his life? There may lie the contempt one might understand from the "punchline". I'm reminded of the phrase Jonathan Swift wrote on the envelope containing a lock of his dead wife's hair, "Only a woman's hair". The words Hamlet reads are meant to be a refuge, but in no way do they replace the relationships he has broken off. Without the comic context of the Hamlet-Polonius interplay, "words, words, words" takes on some of the meaning behind the "What a rogue and peasant slave am I" speech, in which Hamlet is outraged that he must "unpack his heart with words", or the earlier speech on how his grief cannot be properly contained in "actions that a man might play".

The song reveals a possible staging where "words, words, words" can be pronounced in an aside to take on more personal meaning.

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