Charles Baudelaire: Paris Blues / Le Spleen De Paris: The Poems in Prose with La Fanfarlo

Mark Ford writes:

Figuring oneself as Hamlet in the middle of the 19th century was a perilous business. Think of Mr Wopsle, who performs the role in a hilariously bad production in Great Expectations. When he agonisedly wonders whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings etc he is assailed by contradictory cries from the audience: ‘Some roared yes, and some no, and some inclining to both opinions said “Toss up for it”; and quite a Debating Society arose.’ On seizing one of the Players’ recorders during his altercation with Guildenstern, Wopsle/Hamlet is raucously entreated to play ‘Rule Britannia’. And when, his moralising over, he dusts his fingers on a white napkin after handing back Yorick’s skull to the gravedigger, an inspired prankster yells out: ‘Wai-ter.’

(LRB 21 February 2013)

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