March 03, 2010

We know what we are, but know not what we may be

Ophelia, but John William Waterhouse, 1894, by way of wikipedia.

(Goat Rope is still winding through Hamlet, but you can scroll down for links and comments about current events.)

I don't know about you, Gentle Reader, but for me the most disturbing part of Hamlet is the madness of Ophelia, especially when I watch a performance. It's always upsetting when someone loses it, but by this point in the play, the viewer or reader should have some sympathy for her character.

In the 1990s, if memory serves, Ophelia became an emblem for the problems many young women were said to experience in adolescence and early adulthood and her name was featured on the title of at least a couple of books.

In the play, however, she isn't just suffering from general malaise. Apparently motherless, she was the daughter of the twit Polonius, who could be cruel with her. Her brother Laertes seems pretty self absorbed. An obedient daughter, she breaks off her relationship with Hamlet at her father's command and is further wounded by Hamlet's later actions and attitudes. That was bad enough, but then her father is killed and her only known relative is off studying or partying in France.

She has taken to wandering the palace and its surrounds, singing and speaking in ways that seem both meaningful and nonsensical. A gentleman at court describes her symptoms thus:

She speaks much of her father; says she hears
There's tricks i' the world; and hems, and beats her heart;
Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
That carry but half sense: her speech is nothing,
Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
The hearers to collection; they aim at it,
And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts;
Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures
yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.

When not speaking of her father, she often sings sexually suggestive songs, like this one:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

(I have an idiosyncratic theory about Ophelia's madness bugs me so much. It's a guy thing and goes like this: most guys at some level may be aware that they often push the women in their life close to the edge of insanity. Ophelia is troubling as an example of one who actually goes over the edge.)

UNEMPLOYMENT. WV's unemployment insurance fund is in trouble and so far efforts to modernize and improve it have been blocked.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO LAYOFFS. Here's an article about an interesting policy option some companies and state governments are using to avoid layoffs.

A SAD SIGN OF THE TIMES. Here's an article from USA Today about how a plant closing has hit Ravenswood, WV hard. Back in the proverbial day, El Cabrero and friends tried to support union workers during a lockout. It was a great fight, and the workers won their jobs back after nearly two years of struggle back in 1992. Then came the Great Recession...

WORKING WV. Here's an op-ed by my friend the Rev. Matthew Watts on West Virginia's workforce woes.


1 comment:

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