Wednesday, 21 January 2009

This be madness

I saw Hamlet on Saturday - I have such a genuine love for Shakespeare, and that is something I cling to even if it is seen as pretentious to like Shakespeare, or cliché, or evident of lack of knowledge about other forms of theatre. I do just love it for itself. Also it is one of those things that I love without the influence of others - so many things I have come to like because of trying to be like other people (which I suppose does not make my preferences less genuine, but does make them seem less original), whereas Shakespeare I enjoy of my own accord. So I went to Hamlet by myself, and saved other people from the embarrassment of sitting next to me as I leaned forward for the entire production and cried and was generally far too engrossed.

This isn't a profound observation - but to me Hamlet brings up the question of the nature of madness. As someone who struggles to understand myself and my own emotions, I wonder how much madness is a perspective and how much it is an actual affliction. How much of madness is about internal suffering, and how much is about how others perceive us? The whole idea that if one is questioning their sanity they must be sane (a mad person protests their sanity) seems so at odds with Hamlet - it is surely the questioning that drives him to madness? Or is there ever madness or merely a spectrum of thought where the median is seen as sane? I believe myself to be sane, yet when I am most unhappy and my self-consciousness reaches a peak where I appear most strange in my efforts not to be, I wonder whether I am driven to this peak by myself or by others. Self-consciousness can never be purely internal, surely?

I would like to see a Hamlet where Ophelia is more central - where she isn't a weak, pitiful character that puts too emphasis on love and is thought of as mad. Where her lovesickness is not seen as something ridiculous and miserable, but something human and comprehensible.

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