Playing Hamlet: Looking to BloomPosted: Sunday 16 March 2014
“Hamlet’s unique appeal is that no other protagonist of high tragedy still seems paradoxically so free. In Act V, his is barely still in the play like Whitman’s ‘real me’ or ‘me myself’ the final Hamlet is both in and out of the game while watching and wondering at it.”
Harold Bloom, The Invention of the Human (1998)
Playing Hamlet, albeit in this economic, shotgun form, stretches and changes you. I don’t say that to emphasize his uniqueness or to mystify the role or my relation to it, but to declare a joyful war with the slings and arrows of touring and plant my feet in the garden of endurance.
It’s no secret that throughout the year all eight Players will be working at maximum capacity. But that is a gift, for we get to exist in the sweat and dirt of these plays; then shower away their sad crimes at the turn of each day. Literary critic Harold Bloom talks about Hamlet the play as an ‘Unlimited Poem’ – thanks to our director Paul Reichstein for telling me about this essay – in that the very consciousness of the play bleeds into something that transcends its own language.
At the end of the play, Hamlet’s last words “the rest is silence” are spoken by someone who has said so much, and challenged the universe with an artillery of questions that, speaking literarily, surpass even the force of the achaean army, led by that Hamlet-of-the-body, Achilles, on its way to victory over the Trojans. But Hamlet resolves that the most important, primordial and unchanging of things cannot be pinned down (and killed) with the dagger of the word. So, to silence myself and end this brief reflection, I’ll let James P. Carse respond to Bloom’s quote above:
‘There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”
– James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games (1987)
Hamlet’s death, its infinite silence (like all deaths), is a resolve to continue the unending game, to be an infinite player. The untold secret of playing in schools is, ‘this is the game: do you want to play?’ Hamlet certainly asks that of me.
Rowan, Team V