In the latest issue:

An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Anglo-America Loses its Grip

Pankaj Mishra

Short Cuts: John Bolton’s Unwitting Usefulness

Mattathias Schwartz

Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas

Mrs Oliphant

Tom Crewe

Tippett’s Knack

Philip Clark

At Tate Modern: Steve McQueen

Colin Grant

Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery

Churchill’s Cook

Rosemary Hill

The ‘Batrachomyomachia’

Ange Mlinko

On Dorothea Lange

Joanna Biggs

Paid to Race

Jon Day

Poem: ‘Traveller’s Tales: Chapter 90’

August Kleinzahler

The Soho Alphabet

Andrew O’Hagan

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley

Victor Serge’s Defective Bolshevism

Tariq Ali

The Murdrous Machiavel

Erin Maglaque

Diary: Insane after coronavirus?

Patricia Lockwood

Poland, the Philosopher and the PlayersJames Malpas
Close
Close
Vol. 3 No. 24 · 17 December 1981
Poem

Poland, the Philosopher and the Players

James Malpas

253 words

Was Hamlet present at Bruno’s lectures
before giving up University as a job-lot
of scoundrels and charlatans, leaving
Wittenberg for a court grown purulent?
He found himself unemployed, at best
the self-appointed professional mourner.
Offstage, Poland is racked with unrest.
Four centuries later, Andrzej Wajda films
Hamlet in gabled Cracow, where Faust
(real and imagined) plied his dreadful trade;
His legend, Hamlet’s, Bruno’s and that
of Poland lives on, each trying to find
themselves in the furtive signs of passing
hours, fair or unfair fugitives ...
Again, foreign armies assemble on the borders,
Russian troops run through forests
to their tanks in ranks on hills:
Careful, Andrzej, can your camera outshoot
their guns? We have to believe so as film-troops
(garbed for the Thirty Years War) reel off,
timbrelling their march to smash the Polacks.
No, Hamlet did not hear Magus Bruno speak
or he would’ve stayed and we lost the play;
The philosopher arraigned the problems
facing peace but ended Inquisition-burnt –
feeding the flames one February morning
about the year Hamlet was first run through
with a poisoned foil: ‘... as we grow,
we are brought up in the disciplines
of our house and hear disapproval of the laws
of our adversaries as they of us ... We esteem
the slaughter of our enemies, as they do
when they have done the like, and render thanks
for having vouchsafed to them the light
of eternal life with the fervour we feel
in rejoicing our hearts are not as black as theirs ... ’

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences