I see such beauty

It is great to be alive

I am beautiful


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HAMLET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

In a room of the castle, King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern were meeting the following day.

King Claudius asked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, “Can’t you, by having conversations with Hamlet, learn from him why he is putting on and assuming this mental confusion and grating so harshly all his days of quiet with turbulent and dangerous lunacy?”

King Claudius was growing suspicious that perhaps Hamlet’s insanity was not real, but just an act.

“He confesses that he feels mentally confused,” Rosencrantz said, “but he will not say from what cause.”

“Also, we do not find that he is willing to be questioned,” Guildenstern said. “Instead, with a crafty madness, he keeps himself aloof and will not answer our questions when we try to have him make some confession about how he truly feels.”

“Did he receive and welcome you well?” Queen Gertrude asked.

“He was exactly like a gentleman,” Rosencrantz said.

“But he had to force himself to be welcoming,” Guildenstern said.

“He did not ask questions, but he freely answered our questions,” Rosencrantz said.

Rosencrantz was contradicting what Guildenstern had said just a little earlier. He was hoping not to have to reveal that Hamlet had found out that the King and Queen had sent for Guildenstern and him. He did not want the King and Queen to ask what questions Hamlet had asked Guildenstern and him.

“Did you persuade him to engage in any entertainment?” Queen Gertrude asked.

“Madam, it so happened that we overtook and passed certain actors as we traveled here. We told him about these actors, and he seemed joyful to hear about them. They are here in the castle, and I believe that they already have his orders to perform a play for him tonight.”

“That is true,” Polonius said. “Hamlet asked me to entreat your majesties to hear and see the play.”

“I will with all my heart,” King Claudius said, “and I am happy to hear that Hamlet wants to see a play.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, you good gentlemen, give him further encouragement and stimulate his desire to engage in such entertainments.”

“We shall, my lord,” Rosencrantz said.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern left the room.

“Sweet Gertrude, leave us, also,” King Claudius said. “We have privately sent for Hamlet to come here so that, as if it were by accident, he may here come face to face with Ophelia.Her father and I, lawful spies, will hide ourselves so that, seeing them while we ourselves are unseen,we may frankly judge their encounter and learn from Hamlet’s behavior whether the affliction of his love for her is or is not the cause of his mental disturbance.”

“I shall obey you,” Queen Gertrude said to King Claudius.

She added, “Ophelia, I hope and wishthat your beauty and charms are the happy causeof Hamlet’s wildness. I also hope that your virtueswill bring him around to his usual self again, to both his and your benefit.”

“Madam, I hope that Hamlet returns to his usual self,” Ophelia replied.

Queen Gertrude left the room.

Ophelia’s father, Polonius, said, “Ophelia, walk over here.”

He then said to King Claudius, “Gracious majesty, if it so please you,we will hide ourselves.”

He gave a book to Ophelia and said, “Take this religious book and read it so that you have an excuse for being alone. We are often to blame in this — it has been found to be true — that with the appearance of devotion and pious behavior we do sugar over — hide — the work of the Devil himself.”

Polonius meant that they were using a religious book in an act of deception; the book would assist Polonius and King Claudius in spying on Hamlet when he thought that he was talking privately to Ophelia.

King Claudius heard Polonius’ words and thought, His words are too true!How painful a whipping that speech gives my conscience!The harlot’s cheek, beautified with plastered-on cosmetics, is not uglier to the thing that beautifies itthan is my deed to my most painted — hypocritical — words. This is aheavy burden! The whore disguises her ugliness with makeup, and I disguise my ugly sin with pretty but hypocritical words. My conscience is guilty.

Polonius said, “I hear Hamlet coming. Let us hide ourselves, my lord.”

They hid behind an arras: a wall hanging.

Of course, Hamlet could not hear King Claudius’ thoughts, but they helped confirm what the ghost had told Hamlet.

Hamlet entered the room and said, “To be, or not to be: That is the question. To exist or not to exist. Is it nobler in the mind to suffer the missiles and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing them end them?”

To take up arms — weapons — to fight a sea is futile. Using weapons to fight a sea of troubles is useless — unless the weapons are used to end one’s own life, thereby ending one’s troubles.

Hamlet was asking which course was better to take: Is it better to commit suicide or to endure a life of troubles?

“To die is to sleep; it is no more than that. If by sleeping we could end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks such as pain and illness that flesh is heir to, then that would be a consummation — an end — that we could devoutly wish for.

“To die is to sleep. To sleep is perhaps to dream. This is an obstacle because in that sleep of death what dreams may come to us after we have shuffled off and gotten free from this mortal coil, this business of humanity? Those dreams must make us hesitate and think before ending this life. Those dreams are why we endure unhappiness during a long life. Who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the wrongs inflicted on us by an oppressor, insulting treatment by proud men, the pangs of unrequited love, the delay and ineffectiveness of the law, the insolence of those who hold office, and the spurns given to those of patient merit by those who are unworthy? Who would bear these insults when he could secure his release from life with a mere dagger? Who would bear burdens, and grunt and sweat under a weary life, except that the dread of something after death, the unknown country from whose bourn no traveller returns to live his life, confounds and bewilders our will and makes us prefer to bear those ills we have instead of flying to others that we know not of?

“Thus conscience makes cowards of us all, and thus the natural color of resolution is covered over with the sickly and pale cast of thought about the evil things that may come to us after we die. And so enterprises of great gravity and importance turn awry because of these thoughts and so these enterprises of great gravity are never carried out.”

Hamlet saw Ophelia and said to himself, “But I must stop my private reflections now.”

He said out loud, “The fair and beautiful Ophelia! Nymph, in your prayers be sure to remember all my sins.”

“My good lord, how have you been for all this long time?”

“I humbly thank you for asking,” Hamlet said. “I have been well, well, well.”

“My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have longed for a long time to give back to you. Please, take them back now.”

“No, not I,” Hamlet replied, “I never gave you anything.”

He thought, I am much different from the man who gave you those remembrances.

“My honored lord, you know very well you gave me these remembrances, and when you gave them to me you spoke perfumed words of such sweet breath that they made the things richer. Now that their perfume is lost, take these remembrances back because to the noble mind rich gifts grow poor when givers prove unkind.”

Certainly, Hamlet in his “madness” had been unkind recently, especially to Ophelia’s father.

Ophelia handed Hamlet some letters and said, “There, my lord.”

Hamlet asked, “Do you mean that? Are you honest? And are you chaste?”

“My lord!”

“Are you fair and beautiful?”

“What does your lordship mean?”

“I mean that if you are chaste and beautiful, your chastity should permit no approach to your beauty. Your chastity should protect your beauty. Women are vulnerable because of their beauty.”

“Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce — a better relationship or association — than with chastity?”

“Yes, it can,” Hamlet said. “The power of beauty can transform honesty from what it is to a bawd — a prostitute. This power of beauty is stronger than the power of chastity to make beauty chaste. At one time, this was a paradox, but now our times have shown that it is true. Beauty is likely to make a chaste woman a whore. Virtue by itself is unlikely to keep a beautiful woman chaste.”

Hamlet hesitated. He may have thought about his mother.

He then said, “I loved you once.”

“Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.”

“You should not have believed me. Virtue, grafted onto our nature — which comes from that old sinner named Adam — cannot change our nature so much that we do not relish sin.”

He hesitated again and then said, “I did not really love you.”

“I was all the more deceived,” Ophelia replied.

“Get you to a nunnery,” Hamlet said. “Why would you want to be a breeder of sinners?”

Hamlet wanted Ophelia to become a nun and never to bear children. In his present mood, he wanted Humankind to die out, and one way for it to die out was for women to stop giving birth. The word “nunnery” was slang for brothel, but Hamlet was not using the word in that sense — he did not want Ophelia to do anything that could result in the continuation of the human species.

Hamlet continued, “I am myself decent enough, but yet I could accuse myself of such things that it would have been better if my mother had not given birth to me. I am very proud, revengeful, and ambitious. I have more sins ready for me to commit than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I am do while crawling between Earth and Heaven? We are arrant knaves, all of us; believe none of us. Go and live in a nunnery.”

He stopped and then asked, “Where’s your father?”

“At home, my lord.”

“Let the doors stay shut against him, so that he may play the fool nowhere but in his own house. Farewell.”

Ophelia prayed for Hamlet: “Oh, help him, you sweet Heavens!”

Hamlet said to her, “If you do marry, I’ll give you this curse for your dowry. Even if you are as chaste as ice and as pure as snow, you shall not escape gossip and slander. You shall have a bad reputation. Get you to a nunnery, go. Farewell.

“Or, if you must marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters — horned cuckolds — you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly, too. Farewell.”

Ophelia prayed, “Heavenly powers, restore him to sanity!”

“I have heard much about your paintings, too,” Hamlet said.

He was referring to the use of cosmetics that women “painted” on their faces.

“God has given you women one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp, and you call God’s creatures by the wrong name — a chaste woman becomes a whore, and a husband becomes a cuckold — and you pretend that you do wanton acts out of ignorance.

“Whatever. I’ll speak no more about it; it has made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages. Those who are married already — all but one couple — shall live and continue to be married couples. The rest shall stay as they are and remain single. To a nunnery, go.”

The one couple was King Claudius and Queen Gertrude.

Hamlet stormed off.

Ophelia said, “Oh, what a noble mind is here overthrown by madness! The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword are overthrown. The expectancy and rose — our finest hope and the apparent heir to the throne — of our fair state are overthrown. The mirror of attractiveness and the pattern of perfect behavior are overthrown. The observed of all observers — the honored and respected object of every courtier — is quite, quite overthrown!

“And I, of ladies most dejected and wretched, who sucked the honey of his musical vows, see that noble and most sovereign reason that used to formerly jangle like sweet bells is now out of tune and harsh. I see that his unmatched form and feature in the full flower of his youth has been blasted by madness.

“I am filled with sorrow because I have seen what I have seen, and because I see what I see!”

King Claudius and Polonius came out of hiding.

“Love?” King Claudius said. “Hamlet’s emotions do not incline that way. In addition, the things that he said, although they lacked form a little, did not sound mad. There is something in Hamlet’s soul, over which his melancholy sits on brood the way a bird sits on eggs, and I suspect that what will hatch and be disclosed will be something dangerous. To prevent that danger, I have just now decided to send Hamlet to England. There he shall demand the tribute that England has not sent to Denmark. Perhaps the seas and different countries with various sights will expel this thing, whatever it is, that is in his heart and has bothered his brain so much that it makes him unlike his usual self.”

King Claudius asked Polonius, “What is your opinion? What do you think?”

“Your plan is good,” Polonius replied, “but I still believe that the origin and commencement of his grief has sprung from rejected love.”

Polonius said to his daughter, “How are you, Ophelia? You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said: We heard everything.”

He then said to King Claudius, “My lord, do as you please; however, if you think it fit, after the play let the Queen his mother be alone with him to entreat him to reveal his grief. Let her be outspoken with him, and I’ll be hidden, if it pleases you, where I can hear their conversation. If she does not find out what is the matter with him, then send him to England, or confine him wherever your wisdom shall think best.”

“We will do as you suggest,” King Claudius said. “It shall be so. Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Edgar Lee Masters: Louise Smith and Herbert Marshall (Spoon River Anthology)


HERBERT broke our engagement of eight years

When Annabelle returned to the village

From the Seminary, ah me!

If I had let my love for him alone

It might have grown into a beautiful sorrow—

Who knows? — filling my life with healing fragrance.

But I tortured it, I poisoned it

I blinded its eyes, and it became hatred—

Deadly ivy instead of clematis.

And my soul fell from its support

Its tendrils tangled in decay.

Do not let the will play gardener to your soul

Unless you are sure

It is wiser than your soul’s nature.


ALL your sorrow, Louise, and hatred of me

Sprang from your delusion that it was wantonness

Of spirit and contempt of your soul’s rights

Which made me turn to Annabelle and forsake you.

You really grew to hate me for love of me,

Because I was your soul’s happiness,

Formed and tempered

To solve your life for you, and would not.

But you were my misery.

If you had been

My happiness would I not have clung to you?

This is life’s sorrow:

That one can be happy only where two are;

And that our hearts are drawn to stars

Which want us not.


Lao-Tzu #63: Take care of difficult problems while they are still easy; Do easy things before they become too hard.



Act by not acting;

do by not doing.

Enjoy the plain and simple.

Find that greatness in the small.

Take care of difficult problems

while they are still easy;

Do easy things before they become too hard.


Difficult problems are best solved while they are easy.

Great projects are best started while they are small.

The Master never takes on more than she can handle,

which means that she leaves nothing undone.


When an affirmation is given too lightly,

keep your eyes open for trouble ahead.

When something seems too easy,

difficulty is hiding in the details.

The master expects great difficulty,

so the task is always easier than planned.


Tao Te Ching

By Lao-Tzu

A translation for the public domain by j.h.mcdonald, 1996





Taoism is intended to be a practical philosophy — one that you can apply in your everyday life. Therefore, in reading the main book of Taoism, Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu (circa 604 B.C.E.), you can ask yourself, “What does this mean to me? How can I get in touch with Nature and achieve happiness?”

Let’s take a look at section 63 of the Tao Te Ching:

Act without action.

Do without ado.

Taste without tasting.

Whether it is big or small, many or few, repay hatred with virtue.

Prepare for the difficult while it is still easy.

Deal with the big while it is still small.

Difficult undertakings have always started with what is easy,

And great undertakings have always started with what is small.

Therefore the sage never strives for the great,

And thereby the great is achieved.

He who makes rash promises surely lacks faith.

He who takes things too easily will surely encounter much difficulty.

For this reason the sage regards things as difficult,

And therefore he encounters no difficulty.

Note: From The Way of Lao Tzu, translated by Wing-tsit Chan.


Here we find advice about great undertakings. Since many readers of this book will have as their current great undertaking getting a college diploma — to be followed by the great undertaking of getting and keeping a job — let’s look at how two students approach studying. One student is a fool, and the other student is a Taoist.

The fool comes late to class — if he even attends class — seldom takes notes, and does not keep up with the reading. When the fool is assigned a 20-page term paper due at the end of the quarter, he says to himself or herself, “Hey, that’s a couple of months away! I’ve got lots of time to write that paper. So I’m going to have fun now, and I’ll write the paper later.” (This is the fool’s rash promise to himself or herself.)

Time flies by, and suddenly it’s finals week! The fool suddenly realizes that he or she hasn’t started the paper and he has a D- in the class so far. The fool asks the professor for an incomplete, but the professor — who takes attendance and knows the student has been blowing off the class — declines. Now the fool has to study for his or her finals and write a 20-page term paper at the same time.

All teachers, unfortunately, have known fools. Because of the fools, teachers take attendance in an attempt to force the fool — for his or her own good — to attend class. Teachers also are aware that at the end of the quarter or semester the fool will end up working harder than anyone else in the class — and learn the least from their hard work.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes,

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run.

The Taoist student, in contrast to the fool, attends every class, takes good notes, and keeps up with the reading. After all, the Taoist student realizes that graduating can require a great effort. When the Taoist student hears about the 20-page term paper, she immediately begins work on the paper.

However, he or she does not try to write the entire paper in a few days — the way the fool is forced to. Instead, the Taoist student first finds a topic that he or she is interested in and that the teacher will accept as the topic for his or her term paper. (The fool has to start researching the first topic that comes to his mind, even if it bores him or her — as it probably will.) Then the Taoist student breaks the process down into small steps that anyone can do. Week by week, he or she researches and writes her paper, learning about an interesting topic in the process and ensuring himself or herself a good grade as well.

When the fool is desperately trying to come up with a topic to research, the Taoist student is finishing the proofreading of his or her paper.

That is the way that Taoists approach great undertakings. The undertaking appears overwhelming, but if you work on it little by little, the task gets done.

According to Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “You know when you think about writing a book, you think it is overwhelming. But, actually, you break it down into tiny little tasks any moron can do.”

Of course, we all know of students who get good grades without learning anything. Sometimes they cheat. Does this mean the Taoist student is a fool?

No. One purpose of college is to acquire job skills. Good grades can help you get your first job, but good skills are what will keep you from being fired. One of my correspondence students in philosophy wrote me about a computer-programming course that she and a friend had taken. The course was difficult, and my student was having a hard time. The final project was to do some computer programming — everyone in the class had to do the same project.

Guess what? A computer programming whiz in the class finished the programming project early and offered to give a copy of it to any other student in the class who wanted it. My student said, No, and received an F in the class. She had to take the class over. My student’s friend said, Yes, and received an A in the class.

Later, both students got jobs. The friend who had cheated and received an A was fired because her boss quickly discovered that she didn’t know how to program a computer. My student who had received an F and had to take the class over kept her job — in fact, she made a copy of her paycheck and mailed it to the friend who cheated!

This doesn’t mean that the Taoist student is a grind who never enjoys life. Taoists probably enjoy life more than anyone else. They do the work for the day, then go out and have fun. In fact, they enjoy their fun better than other people because their work for the day is done. In addition, they enjoy the process of doing their work. Taoist students tend to enjoy their classes because they understand what the professor is talking about — they’ve kept up with the work and so the professor does not appear to be speaking in a foreign language. However, if a Taoist student finds himself or herself not enjoying his major, he will change majors.

Taoists believe that at one time Humankind lived in harmony with Nature, but that since then Humankind has grown away from Nature, resulting in many problems. For example, in the United States today is an epidemic of obesity. Department stores are beginning to carry shirts in XXL and XXXL sizes because people can’t squeeze their excess flesh into XL shirts anymore.

Why is this happening? One answer is the proliferation of fast food restaurants, which serve fatty hamburgers and greasy french fries. (A TV commercial for low-calorie food or exercise equipment will probably be sandwiched between two TV commercials for fast food.) One hundred years ago, Americans ate mostly grains, fruits, and vegetables. Today the emphasis is on animal fat. For example, take Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. He ate at Wendy’s all the time — just look at what it did to his midsection. (Wendy’s TV commercials that showed Dave’s big belly do have truth in advertising.)

To lose weight, remember the laws of Nature. You know that more food and less exercise means weight gain, so if you want to lose weight, try less food and more exercise. (And if you think you can gobble mass quantities of pizza and drink mass quantities of beer and not gain weight, weigh yourself now and weigh yourself when you graduate — the fiendish laughter you will hear in the distance will be mine.)

A true Taoist has an interesting way of dealing with obesity. He or she never becomes obese in the first place.

Read the Tao Te Ching and find out what it has to say to you.

Aesop: The Fox Without a Tail

It happened that a Fox caught its tail in a trap, and in struggling to release himself lost all of it but the stump. At first he was ashamed to show himself among his fellow foxes. But at last he determined to put a bolder face upon his misfortune, and summoned all the foxes to a general meeting to consider a proposal which he had to place before them. When they had assembled together the Fox proposed that they should all do away with their tails. He pointed out how inconvenient a tail was when they were pursued by their enemies, the dogs; how much it was in the way when they desired to sit down and hold a friendly conversation with one another. He failed to see any advantage in carrying about such a useless encumbrance. ‘That is all very well,’ said one of the older foxes; ‘but I do not think you would have recommended us to dispense with our chief ornament if you had not happened to lose it yourself.’


Distrust interested advice.


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