By Francis Levy
A waffle is a delicious breakfast food that’s usually served with maple syrup, but in its verb form it means to be indecisive or titter on the brink of one action or another. The gerund constructed from the verb refers to a state of being that manifests both individually in say the ambivalence of an uncommitted relationship or collectively in the kind of indecision that countries or leaders or often accused of. President Obama was criticized for waffling when it came to responding to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. But let’s go back to the everyday waffle for help. Pancakes which are made from a similar batter generally have a smooth surface though their edges may be somewhat irregular due to the way the batter is poured into the griddle on which they’re cooked. A waffle on the other hand, which is usually cooked in an iron, has rectilinear edges with a surface that’s punctured by squares or rectangles which are smaller versions of the whole. The waffle then is a little like a play within a play and therein lies the basis of waffling. What is the most famous play within a play of all time? The “Murder of the Gonzago,” in Hamlet and of course Hamlet is the greatest waffler of all time. He doesn’t even know whether he himself wants to be or not. Indecision can be a curse and Hamlet suffers from the doubting disease. But did his neurosis go back to his problems growing up in the shadow of his father in Elsinore. Was he the eponymous waffler? And was president Obama perhaps given too many waffles as a kid? Perhaps after finishing his monumental history of Johnson, Robert Caro will turn his attention to Obama and we will finally know.
Hamlet, Act III, Scene III (Delacroix, 1843)
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