Hamlet Recorder Scene and Alien: Covenant Flute Scene

Thanks to Matt Hatton for pointing this out to me. Like Matt, I do wonder if this scene generated the same sort of laughter when it first debuted in 1609. Apparently, Matt did watch this scene being filmed, and on the set, there were a few quiet snickers.

*text in italic is the modern interpretation of the words

HAMLET – I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?

I don’t really understand what you mean. Will you play this recorder?
GUILDENSTERN – My lord, I cannot.

I can’t, my lord.
HAMLET – I pray you.

GUILDENSTERN – Believe me, I cannot.

I’m serious, I can’t.
HAMLET – I do beseech you.

I’m begging you.
GUILDENSTERN – I know no touch of it, my lord.

I have no idea how.
HAMLET – It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

Oh, it’s as easy as lying. Just put your fingers and thumb over the holes and blow into it, and it’ll produce the most moving music. Here, the holes are here.
GUILDENSTERN – But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony.
I have not the skill.

But I can’t play a melody. I don’t know how.
HAMLET – Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

Well, look how you play me—as if you knew exactly where to put your fingers, to blow the mystery out of me, playing all the octaves of my range—and yet you can’t even produce music from this little instrument? My God, do you think I’m easier to manipulate than a pipe? You can push my buttons, but you can’t play me for a fool.




The Recorder scene in Hamlet
It’s very important to consider that the instrument itself is relatively easy for anyone to play, without former teaching. Requiring no technique, but just the basic understanding of which of the certain holes to cover to produce music.
Hamlet feels “played” by his peers as they try to figure out his madness. Using a recorder as an example of something played, he asks Guildenstern to play him in the same fashion he’d play a recorder. Carrying this metaphor, Hamlet throughout several more discussions till his old friends finally confess they have been sent to him.
Hamlet, like David, craftily sets up the ultimate insult. Literally handing Guildenstern the recorder and asking him to play it like he’s being played. Guildenstern refuses, just as Walter did, stating “I can’t play”. Hamlet calmly replies that it is a simple enough instrument to play, and just like the exchange with David and Walter it is a constant challenge, David urges Walter again and again. Then Hamlet, like David gets his “punch line” in.
“how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops (the holes that produce the notes); you would pluck out the heart of my mystery (make me sing/talk); you would sound me (make music)from my lowest note the top of my compass (a full scale)”
Hamlet is effectively making fun of the fact that if he(Guildenstern) can’t create music from a simple recorder, but remain arrogant enough to think that they could make Hamlet “sing” out the truth of what is really going on. They are fools, on a fool’s errand, and Hamlet uses this extended metaphor to show them that just as David does in the most subtle manner. This is the hint the writers and Ridley Scott leave the audience before we are privy to David’s entire plan. Of what he will do to get on the Covenant.
And just as many aspects of Alien: Covenant has been recreated many times in many forms, here’s a modern version of Hamlet from 2009 for your enjoyment.

2 thoughts on “Hamlet Recorder Scene and Alien: Covenant Flute Scene

  1. Pingback: Happy ALIEN Day 2018. – Y U T A N I

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