So I’ve been reading Hamlet, and I feel like I finally get it. For the most part I’ve always understood it, or at least what was going on, but now it’s actually sunk in and I can see why a certain sort of person raves about it all the time.
A few things that I noticed only this time:
Everyone knows Polonius says “To thine own self be true,” which admittedly is a pretty pithy statement. But no on seems to comment on what he says after:
“This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Which is to say that you can only lie to others if you have lied to yourself first. And sooner or later in Hamlet, everybody lies. Everybody is hiding something from someone – or everyone – else. Because the play is about truth more than anything else, and truth is something no one has ever been able to get over…
Another thing, now sharply applicable to my own life:
Claudius when he attempts to pray says
“My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder’?
That cannot be, since I am still possessed
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardoned and still retain th’ offense?”
I haven’t murdered anyone, no. But over the summer, or maybe before that, I did some fairly damaging things to someone who didn’t deserve it because I wanted something, although that something changed often – to play a certain part in his story, to be loved, to have a relationship with someone else. I by no means retained what I wanted… but the damage of what I did lasts, and there isn’t anything that I can do to change that. So in some ways it doesn’t even seem to matter that I don’t know what else to do to stop from hurting this person simply because whatever I do is not enough to heal that hurt. It’s a debt that I cannot pay. Other people have told me to not beat myself up over it simply because it doesn’t do any good to the one that I hurt, but in a way I don’t know what else to do except to exact that debt onto myself.
And the reason that I got into this mess was because I was not true to myself, and how else could I genuinely, unknowingly lie to someone else? There were things that I wanted to be true, in myself and in the universe for any number of reasons, and for a time I believed that they were true.
But the problem with truth is that it does tend to sneak out somehow. And I’ve never been that good at lying to myself. And once you can’t lie to yourself you can’t honestly continue the facade built upon that self-deception.
And… that’s what happens in Hamlet. The truth comes out and exacts its cost on everyone who lied. Think about it. The only ones standing at the end of the play are the ones that never lied, who were always true to themselves and others.
This is going in my play, maybe? I need to start writing more of that.