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Posts Tagged ‘love’

my lord Hamlet, and all of us

I saw Hamlet for the first time and for the fiftieth last night.  I had not seen David Tennant’s ’09 production until now.  He is certainly the most soulful Hamlet I have seen.  His portrayal was also the most vulnerable as he is so thin and his eyes so big.  He makes the scene with Gertrude more believable that he is her little boy, lost.

As excellent as Branagh was in that scene, he was too swaggering to be vulnerable.  And Tennant’s madness was much more of an antic disposition than any I’ve seen.

He was wonderful, and as I am an experienced Hamlet-watcher, I was waiting to see if the director was going to suggest that Hamlet was really cracking up, or if he was truly faking it.   He is faking it in this one.

Tennant’s scenes with Ophelia were not as touching as Branagh’s, nor his “Forty-thousand brothers” line, a line that can give chills if delivered right.  The director seemed to relegate Ophelia to her signature herb-strewing and not much else.  One cannot believe the grave scene if the relationship with Ophelia is not seeded tenderly throughout the first half of the play.  Tennant’s 40,000 brothers was not believable and I grieve for that.

We have to see that he does love her

The Osric scene, which precedes one of my favorite moments in Hamlet, was weak as well.  It was perfect with Branagh and Williams:

the trappings of society vs real human relationships

Here Osric is puffed up with the most superficial of all human characters: the courtier.  Hamlet, line by line, contrasts the buffoon with everything he has learned about the human experience on earth in the first 4 acts.  This scene leads into the most important lines of the play (IMHO): “If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”  Then he says, “Let be.”

He had asked himself, “To be or not to be?” earlier.  Here is his answer to himself…with the slow…let…be.

Hamlet has not been “ready” until that moment.  I don’t like to see the director just skip by those lines.  I have to sniff and rub my cheek every time Branagh delivers them, but Tennant pops them out too fast and the look in his eye suggests he is ready for the dual…not ready for death as Branagh is.  Horatio knows this.  In the Branagh version Horatio bursts into tears at that line.  In Tennant’s we go right to the fencing.

However…Tennant’s Soliloquies were awesome.  It is those eyes…he does angst like no other.

yes…

I love Hamlet and Hamlet.

When I was a teenager I used to cry and cry when I was reading Hamlet and got to the end.  I had a ritual where I would turn back the pages and would not put the book down until I had read Act 1 again…so that Hamlet was alive again as I closed the book.  I had fantasies where I was Ophelia and I saved him.  We would run away together to a ship and leave Denmark forever…but try as I might in these imaginary adventures, I could not take away what plagued the Prince.  There is no saving Hamlet.  It defeats the purpose of the play.

Hamlet, and by Hamlet, I mean the most beautified Bard, teaches us all what it is we are here for in the first place:  What a piece of work is a man.

Hamlet must die, as we all must.  The readiness is all.

And yet he is forever.  We can turn back the pages and be Hamlet all over again, whenever we want.

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Not a Franciscan Friar

But there is a reason George Lucas dressed his Jedi this way.

All characters in a novel have to come from somewhere and I have read many humorous accounts written by novelists about where their characters come from.  No one who is friend to a novelist is safe, and I remember hearing a threat at a writer’s conference from the table behind me.  Someone said, “You’d better stop that, or I will put you in the next book.”

In my case I was thinking about Friar William, who is a major character in The Necromancer’s Grimoire, the sequel to Hermetica.  I am not a Catholic, so I have limited exposure to that culture, but I did have one very intense experience that was the genesis for William.  I will tell you what happened.

When I was nineteen years old I was in a crowded plane traveling halfway across the country.  I was in the aisle seat and in front of me I could see the top of man’s head.  A bald head.  All through the flight I kept having a strange feeling, and as a student of mysticism, I was acutely aware that something very interesting was happening…so I was paying attention.

After we landed, and everyone knows what happens, the passengers stand and get their luggage from overhead compartments, then wait impatiently for the crew to open the door and LET US OUT.  I stood, and the man in front of me stood.  That is when I saw that he was dressed in the traditional coarse dark brown cassock of a Franciscan.  He had the twisted cord around his waist and the hood hung low on his back.  He never turned around, so I never got to see his face, but that doesn’t matter.  I knew he was young, he had honey-brown hair over his ears below the carefully shaved tonsure, it was  almost blond, and he was shorter than I am.  I was pressed nearly up against his back by the other passengers behind me.  Our clothing was touching. This situation is one of the only ones in our culture that permits absolute strangers to stand this close to one another.  He smelled like soap.

A warm glow emanated from him and entered me, working its way up inside me, little round circle by circle from the base of my spine up to my throat making me almost dizzy with its intensity.  I had been feeling it as I sat behind him, but didn’t know it was coming from the man in front of me.  Those of you who have studied these things know what I mean.  When I was then squashed against his body, it was like a wave of heat.

I was shocked at first, because I had assumed that organized religions, especially those that have a history of unpleasant events could not produce such an aura in a follower.  This was my lesson that day.  I almost felt faint from this feeling, it was so full of love and compassion.  I wanted to throw my arms around him and squeeze!  Seriously.  I was making fists to keep myself from doing that.

There were tears in my eyes when we finally got to the gate and the crowd dispersed and he disappeared among the many bobbing heads crowding the exits.  I had to go sit down in one of those plastic blue airport chairs until I could walk steadily again.  This is what people mean when they speak with wonder about feeling the love of god.  It was seriously intense.

Now, you may ask why I did not rush to the nearest church and become a Catholic.  This feeling is not a thing specific to any particular religion.  Some years later the same feeling happened to me when I attended a performance of chanting by Tibetan monks.  I knew that even at nineteen, so the Catholics were safe from my heresy that day.

But I never ever forgot that moment, or that friar.  He appears again in my novel.  And the lesson I learned about making assumptions and prejudice about the sincerity of any particular religious adherant was one of the most important of my life.  Without letting those ideas go, I would have had no room inside my head for the many lessons that came after.  In fact, it reminds me now of the Zen koan about the overrunning teacup.  That day was the day I emptied my teacup of all the preconceived ideas I had about organized religion.

I would love to know what it was that happened to George Lucas…

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