Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Open Letter To The Prince Of Denmark

note:Italics are my open letter to Hamlet...
interspersed is a form of inter locution

Dear Hamlet,

Saw you recently at the Shakespeare Theatre's newest version of your 400 year old saga. And being in the spit zone in the wash of the foot lights, stage right, found myself in a good joust with my own ghosts about your story. Ghosts that have been haunting for some time in ways that I hardly could fathom. So, proceeding with outlandish presumption,and cathartic release, I take on not only you, but your illustrious creator as well as the 400 year literary establishment hailing you as the quintessential "modern", with particular emphasis here on your most recent apostle, Harold Bloom. And I really don’t know just why the play has troubled me so. Maybe this writing is an attempt, I guess, at gestalting some unrest in me.

The resulting essay begins my own ridiculously audacious task of unfolding a counter factual story that borrows from the original quasi historical "Amleth" of 12'th century Denmark which likely draws on the Ur-Hamlet myths as far back as Roman times. My revision attempts to save you from the bloodbath of your final scene and touches, in a distant remove, on this current Muslim/Christian predicament we find ourselves in. My allegory merges these 2 traditions by bringing the Muslim Philosopher Averroes and your namesake, "Amleth",a Dane, together when he is very young. Very tall order indeed. But, interestingly, from an historical standpoint, both Averroes of Andalucia, Spain, and Amleth of Denmark were relative contemporaries.

So, your tale has been laced into the canonic memes-the remebering DNA of our Western ethos for some time now, and my issues with it are fundamental ones taking opposition at the content as much as the plot of the play at some primal level. It is not lost on me that this is a grossly presumptuous assault.But if my gall provokes you along to see just how preposterous my insult is to so illustrious a figure as "The Bard" representative of the species, then so be it. I am mad at Shakespeare and madder at Homer, but we won't get into that now! This is my blog and so far it has essentially served as an echo chamber for my own plaintive cries under a taciturn moon and have largely gone comment less save some sweet cousins, a few friends and myself. Satisfying the mean sensibilities of some broad audience of readers is obviously not my intent.

....Ah well, perhaps posterity awaits some response after this author is housed in some other realm. Anyway, I thank the reader in advance if you have the pluck to make it to the end of my rant. The writing gets much stronger as it advances.This is a drama and serves as a play within a play within my internal drama.Please have at my hubris here and see if any of my "on guards" to Shakespeare, or to Bloom, or to the literary establishment excites some turbulence unrustled in you that I have brought some flux to. If nothing else at all, if I have done this in some way than I consider my efforts successful...

.........So, there we were in the spit zone at the Shakespeare theatre in DC, recently, w/ your juices flying out at us through the beams of the foot lights like some rite where holy water is flung out into the congregation to anoint the faithful… Well Hamlet, not so much you, but more your creator, and what we have done with your story since causes this unrest… I think my anger comes at your exalted stature in the west more than your personal undoing in the tale of which you were the key architect by the way, so don’t spit on me and just get a hold of yourself now,and it is your ghost and not your father's that I invite to haunt some frightful muse out of me is what I found myself thinking that night...

It seems too long that the lessons of your story have been dictated as classic dogmas w/out reproach at some fundamental level. Well, just what the hell am I trying to say here? Stay with it and I hope it will begin to make some sense.
That your character is centered as the seminal personality in the western canon,embodying the core essences, the Freudian conflicts, the Christian archetypes, and all that stuff …… Is this how you see yourself by the way? Are your soliloquies the first whispers from the interior recesses of an aware subconscious come to light, creating the first solitary thinker of the renaissance????…… Well, and this goes to you, Mr. Bloom, have we forgotten Cicero, Christ, Socrates, Augustine and so many others? Here we have Hamlet creating a western prototype against the backdrops of country, family, father/ mother, and all the mix that puts together and unravels personality.

Mr.Bloom’s wildly amplified contention that Shakespeare’s genius found some essential grail in you Hamlet, his character that went further than anything before or since, and that we need go no further than you Hamlet to understand the core elements of modern human nature- of not only western nature but some universal constant as well….. Looking for a fire break here Harold !!!!
Here is an outlandish quote from Bloom:, "at least to me anyway, I cannot think of another literary dramatic character who has anything like Hamlet's sheer intelligence, who is so original a mind, and who is actually endowed by Shakespeare with a kind of authorial consciousness ... so that you can start quoting Hamlet the way you quote Nietzsche, or Emerson, or Freud, or Montaigne on almost any subject," he said.
"So he really has a kind of cognitive music that he hears all the time, and he is in a perpetual state of change because of it, because he is, as Dr. Samuel Johnson first said, the most serious and volatile of Shakespearean protagonists."
……So, following my own muse, and “cognitive music“- which is a sublime term Mr. Bloom- I feel I must chase something down here or it will always remain fugitive and troubling to me as so much is in this western Pelagia in which we find ourselves does. hey hamlet, Pelagia is not a word… don’t think so anyway…. but comes from the word pelagic which encompasses the billions of planktonic tons suspended in the oceans and all the ocean water that this stuff is suspended in) - I like it anyway, how about you?

Maybe you can enlighten from your 400 yearstill blood stained slumber here, but I do feel that there is some unified cohesion, we are still distant from capturing intelligibly, that ties in much of our iconic identification with classic model parables such as your tale Mr. Hamlet, that weave themselves somehow into the collective morality fields we all are affected by, if not justifying then illuminating the things we do as a nation or as individuals or political entities; perhaps this is an element of what troubles me about how you decide to deal with all those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are your undoing- and drawn out broader, perhaps there is some connection to the way this nation, this “Elsinore” wields itself now as a colossus of an empire losing all its sensitivity, and in some way this story, or how it is interpreted anyway… how Henry IV and others, most notably the Homeric Myths,play some baseline part in this watered down kinder/ gentler form of hegemonic conquest that America finds itself in...
... yes, remotely distant associations perhaps to tie to you Hamlet, or maybe no connection at all but for what my synapses conjure…. Who knows?…. It would take 2 lifetimes of work to flesh out , and for a trucker who finds his therapy in the movement of “landscape parallax”, I just don’t have the time but for these brief touches…..

So,allow me my own undoing of you and a retelling that has the likes of the great Muslim philosopher Averoes who saves you by his early training from the grave slings and arrows of fate you must endure in adulthood. Averroes, a real historic figure who actually lived in 13’th century cosmopolitan Andalucía, Spain. Your father, the king, sees a precocious and head strong son in development, and knows the heir apparent needs some wise guidance, some teacher who can bring out the best in you. b He feels he himself has failed the kingdom in some way because he lacks the deep wisdom and keen intelligence required to be a good philosopher/ king sovereign. He sees great potential in you though, a potential far greater than his own, and, for the sake of Elsinore, he wants to bring you up in the most liberal and open way he can.

He hears of this great philosopher teacher Averroes who is an advisor to the Muslim caliphate in far off Cordova , Spain, among other things , and whose knowledge and passions are more ecumenical and scholarly, as in Aristotelian scholarly, than religious. Though he is Muslim, he spends much of his time and scholarship translating the newly rediscovered in the west original works of Aristotle, into the common tongue. So, here he is in the middle of the 12’th century in the Muslim and Jewish capitol of Andalucía Spain, rediscovering the Greek legacy during the golden era lost to the west during the dark ages when the Roman church decided that all knowledge but what god left us in the bible was heretical. The king wants to expose you to the broadest spectrum of learning available in Europe and thinks Averroes is among the most liberally educated and broadminded man in all the land. So, off you go to Andalucía for a 3 yr sabbatical. And it is from this exposure in early life that a very different story unfolds in how you deal with all these fateful slings and arrows in later life. Needless to say , you are not riven w/ the impulse to revenge though these things form an acute torpor in you...

And so it goes in my version where this Muslim saves Amleth from Shakespeare’s final bloodied scene where he asks just to be remembered as we have all these yrs. later baptized in his own blood and the blood of his foes.By the way, this Muslim, Averroes, was perhaps the central figure in reintroducing the western mind to its cultural artistic, and historic roots, thus seeding the renaissance… (one wonders if Bush is aware of this)… one also wonders how Bush might respond to the question of who Aristotle was and how he,(Bush), can be compared to his pupil Alexander in some way and when did he live?? Thus at the seedling stage we find Averroes before the classical rendition or flowering that takes place in Florence that gets all the historical notice --- especially w/ the translation and interpretation on Aristotle that Averoes did. This Averoes is a much underrated link in world history I am thinking and that is why I have Amleth under his intellectual and more important , his ethical guidance. When I visited Cordova recently, I went to see his statue which does not command much focus , but for the pigeons lighting upon the noble head and arms,on the outside of the old mosque walls. Interestingly, even Christian Spain today hardly notes this guy who essentially brought back Aristotle from the shadows of the dark ages. If meetings w/ remarkable men in time travel could happen he’d be near the top of my list!!!!

To me, in today’s world, Hamlet, this touting of your character is a specie of danger if you are accepted as a parity, as an accurate composite of the deepest elements of human nature; of all our natures. Hamlet,you blindly stab through the curtains to kill an innocent man, and a good one , and then hardly stops to ponder this grossly rash act you have just committed…. only commenting that Polonius was a windbag … not seeing how great the impact would be on the love of your life by blindly killing the father of Ophelia even… where were the noble lines forthcoming from Shakespeare that sees the real tragedy of this behind the curtain killing ? Incredulous and incredible missed opportunity here for your creator, if you ask me to accept that this is a seminal figure in our common emotional makeup, and at the deepest levels we are all in some way implicated because you personify our true nature. And yet this seems to be the accepted dogma because it has come down from on high from Shakespeare initially???, I’m not so sure of this …… then Harold Bloom and all this literary legacy from which he borrows…… This could be compared to a president who blindly acts out of solipsists self absorbed terms and invades countries willy nilly to avenge the father‘s unrealized threats from the tyrant Moor….. Or you could also be drawn up as the quintessential tragic case history of the totally self absorbed sociopath if transposed into another setting another time…. If you are so aware of this inner nature, as Bloom describes in you, of your preternatural hold of your own native soul and the core soul of human behavior, then how might this keen sense awareness combined w/ supreme intelligence have delivered you from this blood bath?…. You reek of the extreme elements of tragic murdering illness at the runaway periphery, and not the core elements of common nature or behavior in humans seems me … at least as I feel my own humanity and observe day to day in others….


Though, no doubt, granting Shakespeare’s genius, the fates in his tragic drama did deliver up to Hamlet the gravest of chanced slings and arrows, what w/ an uncle who kills his father with his mother’s complicity… it does not get much more deprave than this. His reactions though, precisely because he is presumably preternaturally aware of their deepest motives, suggest the highest degree of premeditated murder with exquisite forethought and malice. The play within a play only further dramatizes this acute awareness. The foreshadowing of this keen foresight in Hamlet’s device within a play is devious enough, but to recklessly, and with fatal abandon, stab through the curtain blindly at Polonius is beyond redemption of any kind seems me, unless one forgives temporary insanity, as Shakespeare may be trying to evoke here, and hopes that the audience may sympathize. Bloom maintains that Hamlet’s is the keenest of intelligence ever conceived in the mind of man. Preposterous Impostor I say! And if this is the case, I tremble for our species fate.

Intelligence though, if it is to be a global measure of character, moving from the rhythms of some sublime “cognitive music” as Bloom states, must include a connection with and a sense of control over those deep impulses that have removed us in fits and starts from our ancient stone hearths spattered with the "other's" blood and into some semblance of ascending decency. Hamlet, rather than the “proto modern,” harkens back precipitously with sword and dagger, and any other tool of aggression, including emotional and physical abuse to his mother and to Ophelia his supposed true love by the way….. harkens back to these blood drenched hearth stones of our common antiquity. So, if anything, through this breakdown, Hamlet shows us how far we have come from the maw and shadows of the cave, and perhaps how far we can fall if we abandon what millennia of trial and error has taught us at the species level. Perhaps this can be posited as a definition of madness though, and why this diametric opposite in his character is so extremely conflicted between presence of mind and execution of action and at the same time so supremely aware. Yes, perhaps Shakespeare, and not his character coming alive on the parchment at the playwright’s desk, is keenly aware of this and it is Bloom who has created so much intellectual din to obscure this nut.

On the contrary, what makes his character so compelling is how much he abandons the joys and lessons of his youth- after being born on Yorick’s back so lovingly, finding a morbid fascination from the pits with his beloved jester’s skull as a foreshadowing of his own impending skulduggery. He seems far more akin to Cro Magnon than the first proto human renaissance man, as Bloom exalts. Hamlet’s mind may indeed be transcendent, but his actions are case exposes in retrocede dislocation. And so, ultimately, how is the ultimate fidelity of mind to be measured or valued as it relates to the actions sprung of its thoughts? And perhaps this is the root object of Shakespeare’s tragedy by the way- and what I have missed in this critique . Though his pitiable tale endears us to him, and his suffering charm, it is through the thinnest veneer of Shakespeare’s sublime language through his character that we are seduced …. If all the elements of the plot in the tale are the same, yet mediocre language reported the story to us, how would it play or would it play at all at the Folger theater 500 yrs. later? So, I guess I’m saying that we should be more wary of sublime language in its ability to seduce as an art than we are, for example, of music to do the same. One hopes that each might come to his or her own reckoning that would involve far less blood should such terrible fates chance fall our lives.

I do not feel , as the cliché directs us, that there is a seething madness or anger just under the surface in all of us that civilization with its attendant laws and customs keep a thin veil over … and that Hamlet personifies, through his actions, our deepest impulses of aggression, despite how Freud might applaud the loudest here; but that there is a preponderance of evidence more telling and proven if one just observes in their daily lives that admits the silent record of untold trillions of benign deeds committed daily worldwide through millennia defining our deepest natures of cooperation with far more open to light observation than these deep theories of aggression suggest of our common human nature , that there is an essence of daily verified goodness and willing cooperation which plays more of a constant rhythm in our everyday behavior -that perhaps tunes into some ethical harmonic strumming some chord in the double helix that tunes into some perhaps profundo continuo scale pervasive in the cosmos….

…….Well that does not say much really beyond the poetry of this wild notion that intuit’s the ethical base to our nature and how it might follow the laws of nature and evolution just as the law of gravity keeps the moon and earth in exquisite equipoise….. no I guess not, but especially in the west w/ all our recent revival of manifest destiny in the world under Bush, we need some new projected models of morality that needs to slip the surly bonds of the Hebrew Bible, or the Homeric Myths, of which Hamlet may be seen as a latter day descendant, though brilliantly depicted by Shakespeare; yes , some umbilical severing is needed here that offers some promise of becoming, some intuitive jumping of the gap….. Perhaps this sources my plaintive cry that assails this character of Shakespeare’s and now, Bloom’s recreation and wildly overblown enhancement of…. this Hamlet ….… assails this “Hamlet” as not the “proto modern” at all, but, rather, the quintessential opposite -as compared to beings from other worlds for example- as there is no “control” group to compare our own nature really, despite how close our DNA matches chimps- these beings, who warp through galactic worm holes peering in on our experiment from their cosmic light born ships , who have millions of years of civilization might be “moderns” - but rather this character of Hamlet, enlivened brilliantly on Shakespeare’s mother tongue, shows us just how ancient he is still, and, ultimately, and more importantly, by our identification and fascination w/ him still on his 400‘th birthday, just how ancient we still are.

We have so far to go in departure from his last blood stained and poisoned scene where, essentially we still find ourselves if you ponder on what entertains us on all these screens , and what about these atomic swords and daggers of starburst death we still have hidden in the earth to protect us from the many “others” found outside “Elsinore’s” walls. In what way dear Hamlet have we remembered you?…….not until now, this moment, through the process of this writing am I beginning to source out the origins of this unrest I’ve felt about this Hamlet and how we supposed “moderns “ can be reflected in his image and likeness. Only at the distant edges , in the extreme situation ethics, at the periphery can I see any kinship whatsoever despite your central fixing Mr. Bloom or even you Mr. Shakespeare. So, on guard, and touche!!..... softly though


I maintain that Hamlet represents more the periphery, the anomalies run amok of some of our volatile extreme natures unharnessed and, though brilliant in its capacity at self seeing, still loses to his baser impulses and goes out of control into pathologia or some such experiential trauma that dislocates the cerebrum and lets the bull of the limbic out to full run in the insensitive dark, and not just the parts that civilized order has suppressed in the character or is reflected in us for that matter as Bloom wants to build.

Yes, no doubt, of course, it is a wonderful play, all this is a given premise and the reason I feel so provoked to answer in some way according to my own muse of which I value highly. But is it the tectonic starting point where metamorphic slurry, still soft , becomes the granitic character of western man post renaissance and his public and private conscious, as Bloom maintains,? Well I don’t know at all but frankly, I think its much ado bout nothing and that sometimes titanic intellectual eccentrism combined with a force of charismatic will, which Bloom’s rotundity surely encompasses, combine to create a Falstaffian sense of dogma around a subject, as I think Bloom has created around this character Hamlet.

In defense and in deference to Bloom here, though, my theories and their fleshed out expressions in my takeoff here, are based largely on intuitive leaps, shallow and superficial as they might be , skimming at best with perhaps some delving into other related “fields,” and not serious classical scholarship as Bloom has done throughout his career. So, my hat is off to him for he has done far more work into this study, as prosaic and classical as it may be, than I will ever do, and this is a reaction to his prodigious work, so, it all starts w/ Shakespeare, of course, but it Bloom to which the greater part of this reactionary inspiration I am indebted to for his florid covering of this supposed seminal character.