Great men rarely father great art, neither genius bare the motherly hand, but honest people of a keen insight present wonderous exhibitions of invincible and immortal artistry.
Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’er-step not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.
I have long struggled with Ernest Hemingway’s ethos on his craft and have since decided that my hesitation in embracing such a fantastic idea lies in its exclusion of dramatic emotion and the suppression of flagrancy flaunted within the human soul. Yet here we read Shakespeare’s ethos from the mouth of Hamlet; to mirror nature so that we might know her. And Hemingway scoffs from the grave in justified indignation. But one must know nature in order to mirror it accurately to their patron and in this logical deduction we may don Shakespeare in his smock of genius. All other tasks shrivel under the enormity of this one. For to know nature is, in turn, to know ourselves and generations of human existence can tell us everything but how to know ourselves.
In this production of Hamlet, several things happened for me. To begin, I have discovered the integrity and, in some respects, supremacy of the play as an art form. Having read several of Shakespeare’s plays, and having seen considerably less, I have noticed how much more I understand of the themes, emotions, motives, and suffering when actors resurrect the lines to life. An actor must consider all the various pressures which form another person; ask questions and embody a sort of cynicism which takes nothing for granted from the text. Every unspoken thought and action must fit the contour of the character and then the story. Shakespeare mirrors nature, shows scorn her own image and virtue her own feature, with people. He empowers his actors with his insights by asking them to relate it to themselves. And its the audience, not the actors, who Shakespeare means to present his art! Therefore, Shakespeare’s art adds additional dimensions which other art does not.
Secondly, this conception of Hamlet, seen through the lens of Shakespeare’s artistic ethos, revolutionizes the staging of the play. The Royal Shakespeare Company engages the audience through video camera props and by directly speaking to them. The suspension of disbelief necessary in so many other art forms fades and the audience realizes the barrier between themselves and the players on the stage has crumbled. One might as well place chairs around the stage! Hamlet and Denmark blossom as real people in the lives of the audience – the pleasant content of believing and sensing an imagined thing slips out from under the audience’s psyche. Shakespeare not only stages his art as a mirror to nature, and Shakespeare primarily concerns himself with the nature of mankind, but beckons the reflection to speak back! to interact with nature by clawing and laughing and clutching the one who gazes by the head, the one at the mirror wide-eyed in fearful shock and the reflection wide-eyed in bold and fortunate honesty!
Let human nature speak for itself! The artist need only create the confines of its presentation and, in noble honesty, exhibit that nature in its truest form. Write hard about what you truly know. Remove yourself from the discourse and allow the world and mankind to speak for itself. And mirror the age and body of the time true to its form and pressure.
They could have gotten along.