Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Maximum Involvement

In my recent thinking about Hamlet as the harsh taskmaster, I thought of Ibsen's Brand and of Kierkegaard's Abraham as a man of faith. The former is a pastor who holds himself and all of his followers, including his wife, to uncompromising moral standards. And even though he falters a few times, he goes the distance, sacrificing his mother, son, and wife along the way in an attempt to adhere to his beliefs. In the latter case, Kierkegaard compares Abraham to Agamemnon, saying that the former is the true man of faith because the Jews will turn against him, never believing that God would command a man to sacrafice his son, whereas Agamemnon can rest assured that his people will stand behind him, knowing that he killed his daughter for the good of them. Oddly enough, Ibsen and Kierkegaard -- Norwegian, Danish -- hmmm...

In any case, this notion of the search for the absolute is somewhere at the core of dramatic literature. And it is the thing that I was taught well early on to look for as an actor [and] in search of the core driving force in characters to be portrayed: make the choices that will allow for maximum involvement. It yields the most passionate, resonant results, at least in theory, if not always in execution. So it was exciting to me in a recent class I took that focused specifically on Hamlet to discover the idea that Hamlet knows he is going to die because of a voice he heard that he knows to be the Truth but that no one will believe. What a difference it makes thinking about the nunnery scene, the off-stage scene where Hamlet appears to Ophelia disheveled and frightens her, the closet scene, 'To be or not to be,' the death of Polonius/Corambis, the scene where Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius/King in prayer... Hamlet's entire m.o. from the point of view of someone who is reconciled to the fact that his physical existence is about to end versus someone who is going through a metaphorical existential crisis.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I'm on a search for Claudius' 'search for absolute' now!