Sunday, January 23, 2011

II.ii. Brevity - French Rock Opera

Johnny Hallyday's Hamlet is very much about Hamlet's point of view, and while we may hear the peasantry moan in the choir, there really aren't songs to represent scenes in which Hamlet does not appear. Now, while Hamlet does not appear in person in Polonius' big moment, he is present in the form of his letter to Ophelia. After all, it is his words we hear (butchered though they might be by foolish Polonius). Hamlet is such a large character that he tends to be on stage even when he isn't. The letter IS represented by a song called Doubt (click for the You-Tube "video"). As usual, here are the words in French, followed by a very bad (but accurate) translation by yours truly.

Que le soleil nous tourne autour
Qu’une étoile morte puisse briller Doute
Que la vérité ne soit vraie
Mais ne doute pas de mon amour Doute
Qu’un Dieu ait tout fait en 7 jours
Et que la terre soit une poussière Doute
De l’infini, de l’univers
Mais ne doute pas de mon amour

Piège à bécasses trompe femelles
N’écoute pas le loup qui bêle
Sa langue est d’or, mais ses dents brillent
Piège à pucelles et trompe-filles

Que l’enfer soit plus chaud qu’un four
Et que la gravité ait un centre
Ô Doute
Qu’un enfant vive dans un ventre
Mais ne doute pas de mon amour Doute
Que mon coeur batte comm’un tambour
Et que ma vie coule des pendules Doute
Qu’un jour je crève comm’une bulle
Mais ne doute pas de mon amour

That the sun turns around us
That a dead star could shine Doubt
The truth be a liar
But do not doubt my love Doubt
That a God did everything in 7 days
And that the Earth is a dust mote Doubt
The infinite, the universe
But do not doubt my love

CHORUS (choir)
Traps for woodcocks trick females
Don't listen to the wolf that bleats
His tongue is gold, but his teeth shine
Traps for maids trick the girls

That hell he hotter than an oven
And that gravity has a centre
O Doubt
That a child live in a belly
But do not doubt my love Doubt
That my heart beats like a drum
And that my life drips off clocks Doubt
That a day I will burst like a bubble
But do not doubt my love

CHORUS repeats twice

We recognize Hamlet's poem immediately ("Doubt") and Hallyday even translates actual elements from it ("that the stars doth move"; "truth to be a liar"). He also picks up lines from elsewhere in the play, such as Polonius' own doubt in the chorus ("springes to catch woodcocks"). So in the same song, Hamlet implores Ophelia not to doubt his love, even as the choir plays Polonius' (and popular opinion? the audience's?) doubts concerning Hamlet's true intentions. While the chorus plays with a distinct animal theme, Hamlet's sections are more nihilistic. The sun is a dead star, Earth is a particle of dust, hell is invoked, and time is an enemy, not a friend. The suggestion of pregnancy is an intriguing one, and makes us wonder if Hallyday thought Ophelia might have been pregnant. There is talk later of breeding sinners, and Hamlet teases/tortures Polonius with the possibility of Ophelia conceiving. Is Ophelia's suicide also an abortion? This isn't something that's attempted in the various filmed versions, but the play hints at it in various ways (and yet, it's the first time I've thought about it).

Of course, we're allowed to doubt this, so Hallyday may be reacting to the suggestion, but doesn't give us a definitive answer (and neither did Shakespeare). It can also be interpreted as Hamlet's trademark nihilism denying his own birth, just as he denies his own mother.


John Kenneth Fisher said...

On the topic of Ophelia's pregnancy, I have often thought she was. Rather than lay out reasons you've likely already thought of, I'll just link to a page making much the same arguments I would:

I've referred here before to the imaginary plays I stage in my head to kill time while I drive, and I've felt before that in both of the two interpretations I've come up with, Ophelia would be pregnant. It wouldn't have a big deal made of it, and maybe she wouldn't even be showing at all, but I feel a pointed glance or two by Gertrude, a look down at herself once or twice by Ophelia, and maybe once or twice unconsciously holding her hand on her belly would be a very interesting bit of drama that the audience would pick up on and would enhance much of the play.

Siskoid said...

When I had the thought, I immediately googled it and found the same site, which I bookmarked for later discussion.

I recommend it for anyone interested in the idea.