Did you see the programme celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death? In one sketch, the ‘great and the good’ of acting did a most enjoyable presentation of the ‘best and only’ way to deliver that so famous first line of Hamlet’s soliloquy…. ‘To be or not to be that is the question’ … with each actor in turn putting the emphasis on a different word in the quotation, to humorous effect…..
‘To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question….. To be or not to be that is the question.’…. (Try saying all of the above aloud, with passion and in front of a mirror…..of course you’re not supposed to laugh-it’s a tragedy after all – but you will!) So now, stop laughing and consider this…… if you were playing Hamlet, how would you deliver the line…?…. where would you place the emphasis? Hamlet, as we all know, is thinking about life and death and dwelling on a state of being versus a state of not being.
We Hamlets of today (and big Hamlets too!) find ourselves in something of the same situation as ‘The Great Dane'( no, not the dog!) or in my case, ‘The Dame’ as I wrestle with the less ‘dark’ but still agonising question of the moment, viz., ‘To Be In or Not to Be In’..….now that is the question! …. Of course I’m making a drama out of a crisis here but in my fevered imagination I see the world as a stage… (but stay.!…. did I stealeth this idea??…nay, not I, my Liege!) and the fool…I mean full… cast of the new Shocksperian Production Company’s ‘Hamlet Rides Again’ is running around desperately trying to find out who is who, where is where and why is why, to find the honest stage directions and genuine script to help them make their entrances and brexits…. I mean exits, while the world’s audience waits with baited breath for the opening night…..
In or out? Well I try to listen to all the arguments and points of view, the facts and the figures (not so much of the latter!) and all the verbal diarrhea (or is it dire ear?) I can stomach and I have come to a conclusion – not yet a decision – but a conclusion…… do I ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ or have a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’? My dilemma is that I kind of hate change but love it at the same time. What I really want is for things to remain the same but get infinitely better….I think! ( Thanks to Sydney J.Harris for sparking this thought!) In or out? Is there a right or a wrong answer? Does anyone really know what will happen in either case? Methinks not.
…To be or to brexit…
However, what I do not want to see happen, is vitriol and scorn being poured on anyone whose decision differs from their own. We make decisions every day – some easy (tea or coffee?) some not ( fight or flight?) and having made them we have to live with them. Others may help us to arrive at these decisions by offering their advice or opinions. This is sometimes intrusive, sometimes patronising, generally kind but you, in the end, must arrive at your very own ‘quietus’ (Hamlet). How often have you said to yourself ‘I wish I’d never listened to her/him…… at least I’d only have myself to blame’…… The thing is, there is no harm in listening to others – indeed we should listen – and who knows we may learn a lot too – but it is down to you/me to digest, assimilate and ‘cluck up the purrage'(sorry, this is just a wee tribute to my father and his spoonerisms!)-pluck up the courage – to make our final decision……
There is a sense of agonised frustration in Hamlet’s soliloquy ( yes I read it over and over…..methinks I must get out more….) that, however bad life is, we’re prevented from doing anything about it by fear of the unknown. In or out, this fear is extremely relevant.
In Act I, Scene iii of Macbeth, Banquo questions the witches, asking them to speak a prophecy to him: …..’If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.’…….and to me too, forsooth!! x