Publishing and Contributing Editor, Jay V. Ruvolo

Advertisements

A Representation of the Human

Prefatory Remarks

‘A’ and ‘the’ are more than determiners, what we in English call the indefinite and definite articles . . . both of them are morphemes, smaller units of meaning as would be the -ly suffix in English, a derivational morpheme changing, for instance, the adjective ‘true’ to the adverb, ‘truly.’ An inquiry is not identical with the inquiry, and for explanations other than the simple grammatical function of either the indefinite or the definite article.

 

What is Human, Anyway?

The character Hamlet is one of the foremost representations of the Shakespearean model of overhearing oneself think, which is what Shakespeare reveals best or fore mostly in his dramas; that is, what is presented uniquely in his characterizations.

Characters never quite listened to themselves in literature before Shakespeare–that is not a gross overstatement. There is something unique in his characterizations. There is some use of interior monologue in Chaucer, but it is not quite the same as we find in Shakespeare, not quite reaching the same level or intensity of articulation, a course the self follows in the process of thinking, the latter not randomly passing images in the mind, but an articulate process of listening to one’s thoughts. This interiority, as in what is mentioned afore, interior monologue, differs from later uses of stream of consciousness in literature, which might have more in common with montage in film. But back to Shakespeare, but is coextensive with Shakespearean interior monologue, not always presented in soliloquy . . . sometimes soliloquy is a form of aside, not exactly the same thing as interior monologue,  but just as representative of layering the consciousness.

Harold Bloom devotes a whole book to the entirety of Shakespeare and what Bloom calls the creation of the HUMAN–yes, Bloom identifies Shakespeare as having a place of primacy in our civilization’s notions of Selfhood . . . all the linguistic/cultural variations (variegations?) included.

Hamlet’s interior-ness is a major part of this, of what Hamlet uncovers, discovers, recovers . . . the use of soliloquy as interior monologue is our legacy of how to be humane, how to engage this humane-ness. Is it not what we do in the mirror–and is this not a derivative of Shakespearean drama as much as what we sometimes assume, Shakespearean drama derived from simple military practices. But then the history of the mirror would be an interesting endeavor for literary expression, if not solely the historiographic.

We must note well Olivier’s use of voice over for Hamlet’s To be or not to be in his film version of HAMLET, just what the character Hamlet is actually  engaging, when on stage the actor must deliver the lines aloud.

Hamlet is thinking to himself, is engaging in a dialectic of his own selfhood, something like essaying his humanity . . . Shakespeare would have read Montaigne, we can assume certainly. The Florio translation of Montaigne was available already for a couple of decades before Shakespeare’s earliest plays. It’s still one of the better translations of Montaigne over the last nearly 500 years.

Do not forget that Hamlet only thinks aloud for the audience to hear him–there was no other method on the Elizabethan stage. There are lines Hamlet could only be delivering to himself while observing his Uncle Claudius praying; he is clearly not speaking to the audience–although I do not restrict this as an interpretive method of presentation. A contemporary stage might choose to use audio devices for voice-over in the scene.

There is a dialogic Self in Shakespeare’s conception of the Self; it is expressed with/by/for an interior heteroglossia–yes, the self is heteroglossic as it is also plural, what Milton called the many selves Self, and what Montaigne models in his essays as extended dialectic . . . see F. Rider’s THE DIALECTIC OF SELFHOOD IN MONTAIGNE.

 

Post Script

Many objections to this notion of primacy in a western traditional understanding of Selfhood are rooted in objections chiefly levied against anything White or Male or European being relevant to any person not White, not Male, not European . . . but the objections deny a broadest possible comprehension of diversity, of a truly multicultural understanding of various and varying notions of Self, of personhood . . . simply because what we should call humanity is not restricted to a hyper localized interpretation/understanding used to stand instead of a more diverse or in place  of multiple comprehensions of our humanity is not to say it loses all validity as a competing notion of the human for others not of its cultural matrix to choose, this Euro-centric, as detractors will name it, under . . . standing of humanity . . . and all understand is just that, a first principle of architecture, to stand under, that is, to be post to lintel.

But then notions of liberty as we have articulated them for two and half centuries here in America have come to represent Liberty for all everywhere, at least in the possibilities for self-determining societies, for a rallying against any and all imperialisms and colonialisms (often mistakenly understood as White only or white European only) . . . perhaps we should then reject Democracy for being too Greek and our notions of Liberty for being, at least residually, if not more greatly, too 18th century. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights both should be rejected within this logic for both of them being too White, too male, too Euro-centered . . . and in our own overarching contempo-centrism, simply too old . . . ; or, as I heard in response to Charlottesville, maybe we need to rethink these old laws that do not pertain to now . . . as if the First Amendment was the cause or the support or the raison d’être of what transpired at Charlottesville.

 

Folger Library to do a Restoration Period Production of MACBETH

 

Strange Perfection

Great idea–Restoration Period production . . . worked out on today’s stage, which might resemble the Restoration Proscenium, but probably not the Elizabethan stage . . . if We were to do a play of Shakespeare’s in a year, and move through successive ages, choosing representative productions, via production notes and texts used in the theaters, providing availability, that would be something . . .

Yes, I mean, what about Roccoco Shakespeare, or Romantic Shakespeare, or Shakespeare in the Victorian age–a Fin de Siecle Shakespeare? We could re-examine the writers, the diarists, the critics of the age and glean reception and view and the contemporary understanding, at least in microcosm–the glories of subjectivity because the subjective view is not always glorious, but we can find when it is.

Edwardian Shakespeare would look like what? Feel like what? What about Berlin Weimar Shakespeare–how would that look? What about Shakespeare in German under the Nazis? What about other interpretations of Shakespeare? How do the Italians do ROMEO AND JULIET? How do the Danes do HAMLET? How is MacBeth done in Edinburg? London Shakespeare in the 30s and London Shakespeare after the War. Shakespeare in New York during the Depression.

I’ve seen Kurosawa’s Shakespeare, his Lear in RAN, his MacBeth in THRONE OF BLOOD; but Japanese stage productions . . . how was Shakespeare done on the Japanese stage? When was the first Japanese production and was it devoted to Westernizing, as we used to say, or was it presented through more conventional Japanese stage methods and aesthetics? KaBuKi Shakespeare?

I would also love to see an all black cast except for a white Othello in OTHELLO; I’d love it if an all blaCK CAST WERE TO do Othello with a black actor playing Othello in White Face . . . no? Yes? When?

What was pre-Revolution Moscow Theater Shakespeare and what was Shakespeare in Russia after the Revolution and Civil War, in Lenin’s Moscow? The other language productions in the space of time they were to be performed could be one night in the original language and another night in a translation of the text used . . . yes, that’s right, translate the translation so as to attempt the feel of difference–

Time would be spent, devoted, to delivering a very good accurate yet stage fluent translation of the translation.

Land’s End, by Jay Ruvolo

What is Land’s End? What does it signify, say, symbolize, mean?

Land’s End is not only the end of land at the edge of the sea, but the edge of everything we stand on. And we do stand on the edge, at the brink, the cup always over full, spilling over itself, of course, a matter of course, you and I standing at a precipice, at the margin of a cliff–and cliffs do have margins as they have edges, as they have extremities–the extreme, the boundary of what? Land’s End is the opening of the abyss.

What then must I say of my time at land’s end on the very extreme of the South Fork? The ocean’s edge is land’s end, yes; but then there is also something primordial about this edge, this between the land and the sea, what we have crawled out of, the depths of our beginning, the deep within us–yes, the ocean is a metaphor for the soul, a metaphor for the unconscious, it has its correspondence with history and time as well. History and time are not rivers, but oceans . . . the surf, the currents, the eddies, the tides, what else have we of oceans relevant to this that I am speaking of, about, within . . .

There is an emotional vertigo when faced with the sea–of course there is. We are calmed and thrilled at the same time, no? We are then, though, horrifically–what are we horrifically? There is supposedly a moment of calm right before death when drowning–yes, there is this, I imagine, I have heard–who knows for sure?

The edge of the known and the unknown, this is Land’s End.

Land’s End: Poems is by Jay Ruvolo; Jay Ruvolo is a poet, a thinker, a teacher, a human being.

Jay Ruvolo is also Publishing Editor of The Falling Leaf Review,  issuu.com/fallingleafreview.

The poet lives in New York City.

The poet is from NYC, having been born in NYC.