Thursday, June 23, 2011

Apple #532: Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be

Continuing my little forays into the land of Shakespeare, I want to share with you one of my favorite moments in television. I am referring, of course, to the episode of Gilligan's Island when they all performed Hamlet. As a musical.

Phil Silvers plays a producer (the episode is called "The Producer") named Harold Hecuba who has happened upon the island, and they all know that he's a Hollywood big-deal. Naturally they decide to pretend not to know he's skulking in the bushes and put on a lavishly costumed musical performance of Hamlet.

I mean, you're stranded on a desert island, have been there for years, some guy shows up out of nowhere, what else would you do? Naturally, you would perform Hamlet.

For me, the true gem of the episode is when Skipper sings Polonius's farewell speech to Laertes. Polonius has all kinds of fatherly advice,-- actually it's pretty contradictory and useless advice.

Have fun with your friends, but don't spend all your money. Don't get into fights, but if you have to fight, fight hard. Don't get fancy clothes, but clothes tell people what kind of person you are. Back and forth, don't do this, but don't do its opposite either. There's a whole long list of things to do and not do, and then at the end of it he says, Above all, be yourself.

Right. Thanks, Dad.

But there is one part of his speech that sticks with people, which is "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." And the reason, the sole entire reason this line sticks with me personally is because I heard it set to Bizet's Toreador Song on Gilligan's Island.

I would dearly love to embed the video of the song here, but I'm not allowed. A link to the video and a photo is the best I can manage.

Skipper as Polonius, Mary Ann as Laertes.
(Screenshot from Hyperion to a Satyr)

About that song, by the way. Apparently Bizet knew it was a bit simplistic and would therefore be popular. Of it he said, "They want their trash and will get it."

For my money, this episode is pure camp which in its way thus becomes pure gold.

One Shakespeare-loving blogger says that it makes all kinds of thematic sense for the castaways to perform Hamlet.

Gilligan's Island is about delay, just like Hamlet is. Everything in the show conspires to delay the castaways' rescue, even while dangling it in front of their noses almost every episode. Obviously, as soon as they get off the island, the show is over. In the same way, as soon as Hamlet takes his revenge, the play is over. . . . In fact, a LOT of television can be examined through the Hamlet filter because it employs strategies to prevent early resolution.

Pretty cool, eh?

Just further advances my original argument, that Shakespeare is everywhere in our lives, whether we recognize his imprint or not.

For those who need it, here's the full text of Polonius' speech:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!


Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

I love that reply from Laertes. I can imagine him rolling his eyes and inching toward the exit.

enotes' text and "translation"
Fandango, Gilligan's Island, The Producer synopsis
IMDb, Gilligan's Island, The Producer (1966)

Hyperion to a Satyr, Other Hamlets: Gilligan's Island Revisited

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