Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Converse with the Dead

Here is a passage from Hamlet (III, ii, 17-36)):

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the
word to the action; with this special o'erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone,
or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
censure of the which one must in your allowance
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
players that I have seen play, and heard others
praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
nature's journeymen had made men and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

    This is apart of the 'Speak the Speech' advice give to his players, who have to preform before the royal audience in Elsinore. These are the stage directions given by Hamlet to instruct the players in how to act well in the play, the Murder of Gonzago, that is going to be preformed. So I'd like to focus on the meaning of two things within the above speech: 1. 'holding up the mirror up to nature' and 2. 'imitating humanity'

    1. Hamlet says that the play-actor shows what is the heart of his audience by merely speaking his lines. This simple direction seems too simple because Hamlet is an experienced play-actor, while his players are novices, who are forced to keep up with the demands of the playwright. So the nature of the players are their relative youth and inexperience.

    2. The irony of Hamlet is that he points out the flaws of other players that he had seen. These were poor players, who did not act well because they sometimes missed their cues. When it was their turn to act, they failed because they did not deliver their lines with the gusto that Hamlet is demanding from his players. So it's human to wander away from what you are supposed to be doing.

   Thus, while we wander from our duties, we could take the time to remember our place on the stage. We will never be like Hamlet because he does not want us to be like him. He demands exact conformity to his directions, which we will never measure up to. So we concede that we have enough of the words that we have been taught from him as players on his stage.

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