Shakespeare wasn’t just an author or visionary. He was, mostly a biblical heretic.
Gerald Thomas Feb 23, 2023 New Paltz, NY
Shakespeare was not just an author. Nor was he just a visionary or a mad critic writing for posterity. Well, everyone knows that, I guess. Harold Bloom and Jan Kott have disserted on this at length. Many of his characters were built up to be mythical beings; mostly by us, along history, mind you! – survivors of all times and for posterity. Yes, superheroes of their time, if you will.
And I have a feeling he knew that. Shakespeare was almost a biblical heretic. Or is that our vision in the 21st Century? Of course it is. We take the side of the rebel. The author is, necessarily the “contraire, le gauche”, and that’s quite okay. His “Tempest”, therefore, becomes his “inner” most mature example of rebellion and forgiveness and freedom. His “King Lear” was his “outer” most – shall we say – nihilism, revenge and rage. That leaves our Hamlet…. Well, our Hamlet….This is as difficult a question as it is Hamlet’s own dilemma; the core of existence itself.
For each century that passes or decade even, Shakespeare has acquired a new meaning. His pieces have found their way into the corridors of Wall Street as well as submarines or even favelas; you name it. All valid, by the way. “Existence” is a subject pretty hard to beat in the theater or in literature.
In this 21st century, I see Shakespeare as mixture a of Clausewitz and Freud together playing Russian roulette at Casino da Urca. Yes, something strange in the Kingdom of Assis Chateaubriand. Why do I say this? Funny you should ask !
The best theater requires no explanation. My theater in particular begs for no explanation at all. It’s done through juxtapositions. And they tend to explain themselves (or not). Look at a painting of Jackson Pollock and try to explain it. There is no way. Try explain Beethoven 5th Symphony. Stunning, yes? In both cases, both are better left unsaid.
Shakespeare wrote precisely for the future and his Hamlet was an example of a young man trying to circumvent the corrupt monarchical system and by coining and conning his own ways and shaping his identity at all costs in the name of a possible revenge of his father’s assassination.
But everything here is a game. A play within a play. Yes, it’s even in the play !!! It’s a serious play!.
Hamlet understands the ending, his end his finitude right at the beginning. He also understands “Hamm’s Endgame”. And throughout the play he has nothing accompanying him but his solitude.
And why does all that sum up to such a savory idea? Why do we want to watch it and live it over and over again?
I do not know how to answer that. Art has no easy answers.
One might venture the obvious by saying that Shakespeare wrote treatises as well as “Constitutions”. And these can be changed or can receive “amendments” like the American Constitution, for example. He was somewhat of a Freud of his time and Hamlet was his punk/youth/rebel admonition-alter-ego validated through the mirrors of every civilization before and after him.
Hamlet, more than all others, is utterly timeless. Elsinore and the Island of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen are metaphors that increasingly fit into this modern world that Jan Kott calls “Shakespeare, our Contemporary” and all this social media nightmare, all this psychological bullying by the radical right and by the liars in command, make this play all the more relevant – more than ever before since I was born in 1954.
Feb 23, 2023 New Paltz