Shakespeare & I

One of the stated purposes of this blog is to chart the effect that reading Shakespeare has on me — not just to make a fool of myself broadcasting my ignorance about the greatest writer who ever lived.

I figure that spending a full year in the company of greatness ought to have some sort of impact on my congenial mediocrity… Why not find out what that might be?

Already I can tell that my standard view of characters is being demolished. Granted, you and I chose Hamlet to begin this odyssey and Hamlet is considered one of the most complex and nuanced beings in the history of literature.

But you see it in damned near every one of the parts. It’s as if Shakespeare, being an actor himself, didn’t dare hand out roles to friends that he wouldn’t want to play himself. No cliched stereotypes or on-the-nose dialogue here!

I find myself already reading the news with a deeper tolerance for ambiguity. I’m an idealist at heart and always have been. So accepting the dark and light shadings inside of everyone is a task that very well may expand me… if I can handle the inner turbulence and turmoil generated by so much human frailty and evil being brought to light.

I’ll keep an eye on that, especially as we head deeper into the tragedies. I can feel myself balking at the murders and deceptions that await me. I feel like Hamlet wrestling with the hard realities of life, those humans compound by rufusing to rise above them.

Maybe that’s why I identify with Ophelia as well. Her take on the world is innocent, while the plots and subplots whirl about her with a frenzy that threatens to tear her apart.

Shakespare maps a whole psychological terrain in this regard, from Hamlet’s famous taciturn struggles to do the moral thing, Horatio’s calm and steady rationality under fire, Polonius’s overzealous, self-interested meddling to achieve his ends, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern’s obsequiousness in service to the status quo, and of course the king and queen’s ruthlesness to fulfull their personal lust and greed.

Each has motives and methods in contrast to all others. The play is a clash of conflicting worldviews, with each character following an independent line in search for his or her own definition of happiness.

From act to act, I watch (or read) in suspense, not knowing what turn the story will take next. Each step is logical, arising from a grounded and established motivational center. And yet… the results are startling, mindblowing, shattering.

Now if only Shakespeare had written the script to Avatar!


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