Uses of this World: Chapter 4

Claudius

Denmark 1926. The world is on a powder keg, the old world is in conflict with the new, still recovering from World War I. Jazz and flappers. Cocktails and parties. In this tumultuous time, the king of Denmark is found dead… but his spirit is not at rest.

Uses of this World is the tale of the people around the events of Hamlet, from the soldiers to the royal family. Each is tied to the outcomes around the crown. And the country, as well as the world, is waiting to see what happens next.

Previous Chapters

Chapter 4: World Take Note

“So much for him,” joked King Claudius, and with a smile he gave approval for laughter.  It was the signal the royal court was waiting for and they responded loudly. Even Claudius almost laughed… almost.

Many like to compare politics to Chess. Claudius never did. Chess is a game, he would argue, politics was something more.

It was art.

Claudius, if anyone bothered to ask him (and they didn’t), would compare politics to a symphony. For like a symphony, each different player was like a different instrument, in tone and style. Some were made to be soloists, lyrical and moving or bombastic; others only played well with similar instruments along, needing to harmonize to find their beauty. And at the front of that Danish symphony was Claudius, the maestro, directing and signaling each player in turn. He had the sheet music written out, and each of the members (knowing it or not knowing it) were following his direction, and only his.

Everything Claudius had done since his brother’s demise had been to cement his own grip on the monarchy. Even this, holding the morning assembly between him and the court in the portrait gallery helped emphasize that. Look at the history all around you, and then look at the new royal family getting their portrait painted. History and living history were alive here and no one in the court could deny the lineage from the ancestors in oil to the breathing family in front of them.

This was Danish royalty. Continue reading

Advertisements

Radio Days or When I Was a DJ or Finding Voices

Claudius was hereI used to have nightmares because of Latin class.

I took Latin when I was in school for three years, between 7th and 9th grade. I was drawn to the classes, not because of it being a gateway to other languages, but more because of its literary history.  See, by this point, I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and usually my focus was on the classics, not what typical junior high kids were devouring. “No, thank you. You can keep your Stephen King, I’m re-reading Hemingway this week.”

Latin was a tie to great mythology, it was a connection to those random quotes in a novel that I had no idea what was being said. In a literary sense, it felt like the opportunity to dig around the base of a tree and see the root underneath.

The teacher of the classes was Mr. Black, and looking back over those three years with him I still can’t put my finger really on his personality. He could go up and down pretty quickly, did he like to teach or hate it? Did he even like us or hate us? Now I almost wonder if he was bipolar, and that could explain the oddness of the experience. (He would also show us I, Claudius in class, if you can believe it. He would run up with a big piece of paper to cover up the screen whenever the “naughty bits” would come on; of course, most of the time he didn’t get to the TV in time.  Yes, he taught kids like me all about the history of Caligula.)

Mr. Black would have the students recite and speak Latin in class, and while I was basically average in reading Latin on the page, I couldn’t do it aloud. It was too much for my tongue. It is those moments that used to haunt me, standing up, hands sweaty, all of the eyes on me as I tried to recite a passage perfectly. The other students would sometimes hide their laughter, many times they didn’t. And there was Mr. Black in the front shaking his head, frowning, with almost a mocking smirk hiding behind his eyes. Continue reading