Because rational logic says that you would have to be mad to pretend to be mad when you’re not, it means that if we follow the Prince of Denmark’s lead and refuse to act the way our critics say we should, we break out of the two-dimensional simulation of the universe, which cannot accommodate enigmas or paradoxes.
Pretending to be mad, just as Hamlet did, completely scrambles your data, so anyone trying to follow and critique your actions in order to typecast you in the future will come up against what appears to be a dead end but is in fact a trans(c)-end in which the artist who appears to die during his act is reborn on a higher stage when he is a meta-escape artist.
The confrontation with this apparent dead end in Hamlet is what led T.S. Eliot, in an essay entitled ‘Hamlet and His Problems’, to label the famous play an “artistic failure”. The essayist claimed the emotions of the play’s titular protagonist “exceeded the facts” and that in place of the black hole he perceived at the heart of the action, there should have been an “objective correlative” in the form of an image or object to evoke the appropriate emotion and explain Hamlet’s behaviour.
But what Eliot failed to notice was that the thing he was looking for had been staring him in the face all along…
Because Hamlet is a literary work dealing with ambivalent emotions and feigned mental illness becoming real, the black hole where an objective correlative should be is itself the objective correlative of the dark and muddled feelings behind the apparently inexplicable behaviour. Taken as a symbolic object, the black hole becomes the obsidian correlative, a magical mirror in which a new depth of understanding can be scried, and in which ‘Hamlet and His Problems’ can be seen as ‘Hamlet and T.S. Eliot’s Problems’.
For hundreds of years, people have been unthinkingly putting themselves in the position of the surveillants when it comes to the Prince of Denmark: readers, audience members, theatre critics, literary critics and psychologists alike have seen it as their role to analyse the character’s actions and perform a mysterectomy beneath the spotlight.
‘Why did Hamlet delay? Why did Number 6 resign? Tell us! We want to track and analyse your actions. You will be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and defined! We want information on your motivation so we can control your future behaviour. You are allowed nothing but your literal meaning, as defined by us, repackaged and sold back to you as a “present” that can only be expressed in the past tense but must be paid for with your future.’
When we hear that someone in the wider theatre we call “the real world” is acting out of character, our instinct is to take up the same critical position of the existential directors and aggressively characterise such behaviour as problematic so that anyone attempting to deviate from the official script remains locked into characterisation as a “problem character”. We will search that human word’s grammatical trail for an extra piece of information that can be used to reconnect them to the main plotline like the final clue that solves a “whydunnit” mystery, and if we can’t find it, we will find them guilty of the crime of exceeding the facts and label their life an “artistic failure”.
The problem of Hamlet is that no one knows what his problem is – and when viewed from the same perspective as the one from which the so-called problem of unpredictability is seen as the solution to observation-based control, this is very much an artistic success. The Prince of Denmark has the ability to confound us all and is therefore the perfect model for the disrupter of grand narratives, the opposer of surveillance and the overthrower of HRH Big Brother.
As more petits récits and quantum-linguistic traps and tricks are introduced on the smallest possible scales, like the play within the play that catches the conscience of the king with its meta meaning, it becomes easier for Hamlet to evade optical character recognition software, and for us to recognise Big Brother as Evil Uncle, the despot who only became king because he murdered another Hamlet.
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