26 Apr 2021
To be or not to be .... Part 1
How many times have we used this expression, or heard someone use it. We might even know that it comes from a Shakespeare play, and we might even know it comes from his play: 'The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark', but mostly our knowledge ends there, and we might not know the meaning or context of it.
Allow me to introduce you to the greatest literary giant of all time, to honour him, to enjoy his work and to learn something from how the human psyche and mind functions.
Shakespeare was born in the Renaissance, and especially in the era where human behaviour and the human mind came under serious questioning and scrutiny - and thus Shakespeare became an expert in interpreting human emotions and actions.
Today, four hundred and twenty years after Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, we have not progressed one inch further in our quest to understand human behaviour on a macro level than his interpretation of it.
If I should tell you to read Shakespeare you would say yes, and leave it at that. Churchill once said that sometimes people stumble over the truth and then hurry on as if nothing happened. So let it be with Caesar, but not with you - a reference to Mark Anthony's speech at his funeral. Shakespeare crops up everywhere and at the most unexpected times.
I will concentrate my thoughts only on Hamlet, as, in my opinion, it is the culmination of his career in which he even outshines himself. The adages, truisms, puns, philosophies, rhyme and prose just comes pouring out of his pen like spaghetti from a machine.
I have marked seventy five points in Hamlet which I wish to touch on, but I also know that once I get involved in his work, the ideas snowball into various valleys of thought where it melts on plains of philosophy and from where it percolates into crevices of deeper meaning, profound lessons and deep insights. So let it be with Hamlet. And that is the reason that I will write this article in many parts. Where it will take me only God knows.
Although Hamlet sounds like real history, there was never such a man. Shakespeare wrote the script as a warning to England that the successions of King Henry Vlll, with its many contenders to the throne, could boil over into a bout of self destruction in which a foreign king invades and takes over England, as we can partly deduce from these words of the clown who digs the grave of Hamlet's love, Ophelia: (I am using my poetic license to make the text more readable)
Clown: (not realizing that he is speaking to Hamlet in person) Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell that. It was that very day that young Hamlet was born—he that is mad, and sent into England.
Hamlet: Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?
Clown: Why, because he was mad. He shall recover his wits there, or if he does not, ’tis no great matter there.
Clown:. ’Twill not be seen in him there, there the men are as mad as he.
The story of Hamlet is short and happens so often in life and especially in monarchies or empires. Hamlet's father, King of Denmark is killed by his brother, who usurps the throne, marries his widow and makes as if nothing happened. Hamlet's father then appears to Hamlet as a ghost and tells Hamlet that his brother murdered him and that Hamlet must take revenge. Hamlet goes into an emotional roller coaster and pretends to be mad as a mask to explain his very unstable emotional condition arising from this. Ere this game plays out, eight people had to die and Denmark fell into the hands of Norway.
Hope I have whetted your appetite.