Friday, September 9, 2011

Homebaked Shakespeare

Yesterday, my students and I got into a great discussion about Hamlet—how the play's focus on history, on remembering, paralyzes Hamlet even as it honors what has been lost. What do we have to forget in order to move forward? What do we have to remember?

We have to remember—the ghost of Hamlet's father demands it: "Remember me"; Ophelia insists upon it when she comes on stage and asks, "Where is the beauteous Majesty of Denmark?"; Hamlet's dying wish is that Horatio tell his story.

But what is the relationship between the past and the future? Does remembering necessarily involve re-membering–putting things back together that have been ruptured? And can this particular act ever bring what is out of joint back to its whole and original state?

I was thinking about this a lot today, doing my own remembering about 9/11, when I saw Hillary Clinton on the Stock Exchange floor (remembering her time as NY State Senator on that day). She talked about how we need to remember, but how we need to keep ringing the bell and moving forward.

I know Shakespeare wasn't thinking about money when he imagined Ophelia talking about the "sweet bells jangled out of time"—the disintegration of Hamlet's thoughts as he fixates on the past.

But I think he would have agreed with Hillary.


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