Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Art that was created just for you

There's a scene in Hamlet that's one of my favorites for three reasons:  one because it's a good scene, two because I can relate to it, three because it gives me a good opening to explain why literature is important when it comes up in my senior English classes.

The scene in question involves Hamlet and a group of actors that have come to Elsinore.  Hamlet asks the lead actor to perform a specific soliloquy that he had remembered from a past performance.  The soliloquy was about the Trojan War.  To be more specific, the speech involved a dramatic account of when Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, killed King Priam as Queen Hecuba watched.  Of course, it makes perfect sense that Hamlet would be thinking of that particular speech.  After all, it involves a prince who kills a king in order to gain vengeance for his father's death - in other words, it's a speech about the very thing that Hamlet himself should be doing, but due to his cautiously analytical nature, he hasn't.

Anyway, it's a great speech filled with all kinds of wonderful, violent images.  The part that I really like is when the King's adviser, Polonius, interrupts to say, "This is too long".  This enrages Hamlet, who tells the actor, "Prithee, say on: he's for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps."  In other words, Polonius wouldn't know a good speech if it bit him on the ass, and the only things that interest him are silly dances and dirty jokes.

I always tell my students that the scene resonates with me because I completely understand Hamlet's frustration.  There are some works of art, be they movies, books, songs, where I feel so attached to them that I almost can't bear to hear anybody speak ill of them.  (Hamlet happens to be one of them.)  It's not just that I disagree with the person's opinion, but I feel like insulting that piece of work is like a personal insult to me.

But why should that be?  It would be one thing if I created them, but I didn't, so it should be completely separate from me.  I guess the thing is that when something really strikes a chord with me, it's because I feel as though it was created especially for me, as though the artist knew me and was trying to get across what's going on inside my head.  Now, I don't REALLY think that anybody's doing that, but it certainly feels that way to me.

I remember talking to somebody about The Who's song, "Behind Blue Eyes" one time.  I asked that person if she had ever liked a song so much that she felt like it was made especially for her.  She looked at me like I had no idea why a person would even ask such a question.  Honestly, I felt a bit of pity for her.

Art and literature exists, in part, to let us human beings know that we're not alone out there.  That's why everything from the rage of Achilles to Hamlet's indecisiveness to The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" still resonates with people.  You not only realize that there are other people who have felt the same things and thought the same things as you, but it has always been so.  We human beings have really not changed all that much.  Perhaps the world around us changes, but deep down inside, we're still dealing with the same problems.

So, what are some other things that resonate with me.  Just off the top of my head:  Cyrano de Bergerac, Spider-Man 2, "In Hiding" by Pearl Jam, the comic book series Preacher, The Odyssey, The Shawshank Redemption, and probably dozens of other things that will hit me once I click the "Publish" button on this blog.  Personally, I feel lucky that I have so many that I don't know where to start listing them.  If there isn't anything that makes you feel the same way, then I hope that one day there will be something.

1 comment:

Nolan said...

I know why "Shawshank" resonates with you, and I'm sorry for my part of what happened to you in the men's shower at school that one time.