Hamlet, Drop the Mirror!

Reporting live from my own bed, it is 4:20am and I… I am not asleep.

I have a Shakespeare class in 5 hours and 40 minutes, I have to start my day in 4 hours and 10 minutes… which approximately gives me 4 hours and 10 minutes… an ample time indeed, to fail to fall asleep.

I have just finished reading a Japanese Manga version of Hamlet (a Japanese-style comic). It is a very convenient way of reading Shakespeare for the comic manages to keep the main lines spoken in the play and rids itself of the rest in favor of drawings. Which leads me to one question: where was this book when I needed a reliable summary while studying for my midterm?

Hamlet concocts (yes, it is the word of the day) an elaborate play that would “catch the conscience of the king.” In other words, he is staging a play that will prove that indeed, it was his uncle that killed his father. Hamlet adds that by doing so, he will be holding up a mirror to nature. The play, this work of art, will “copy” life. Here we have an implied metaphor, in fact, it is so implied that I might be wrong. 😛

Art is a mirror.

If we hold this metaphor to be true, does it mean that we all own melting clocks, we are all waiting next to a tree for a man who never shows up and… are we all Dancing Queens, only seventeen?!!

If art does indeed hold a mirror up to nature… we’ve got ourselves a bit of a situation here. If it truly does, then I’m waiting for my own handsome vampire and werewolf… any minute now.

Why would I need a mirror reflecting what I experience on a daily basis? It’s like having a constant reminder that I’m having a bad hair day! If anything, I’ll pull off a Dorian Gray and cover my portrait until further notice… or a different hairdo.

I’d like to think of art as funhouse mirrors, you know, those mirrors that make you look extremely fat, or make your face as flat as my failed attempts at pancakes, or ideally… they make you look thin. Art is life under a faulty microscope, one that has been invented by a mad scientist. It is a French cook going nuts trying to figure out the perfect recipe for his new “life bourguignon” dish… while drowning it in red wine. It is me trying to finish this blog post.

In a novel, I’d be able to taste Proust’s Madeleine cookie with a cup of Starbucks coffee, convince Madame Bovary not to kill herself and invite her to watch a healthy dose of Oprah. I’d tell Jonathan Swift’s Houyhnhnms (pronounced “Winems”) to change their name and make our lives considerably easier.

Sure, Hamlet’s cause was a noble one… but he ended up dead.

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About dimamatta

There is not much to tell... but everything to discover. *says I with a total lack of seriousness* I am a 22 year old English Literature BA holder, teaching English in Lebanon, at the Louaizeh Evangelical School. I mainly spend my time reading, writing, watching and acting in plays. View all posts by dimamatta

8 responses to “Hamlet, Drop the Mirror!

  • nabil

    it think we should define nature. Nature is not merely our everyday existance in the substance world, it also includes our imagination, our constant thoughts and dreams. If we thus expand the definition of nature, then we can safely say that yes, art is a mirror. if anything, our imagination is a funhouse of jumbled images of broken dreams and strange worlds, and poor art is trying its best to represent it 😀

    • dimamatta

      I see your point, but usually nature would not encompass all this unless we purposefully include it. Poor art shouldn’t carry this big burden of representation. What happened to “art for art’s sake”? But yes, I do agree with you on the last sentence concerning our imagination. 🙂

  • Raffi Feghali

    “Art for art’s sake” is definitely an approach I prefer when I’m dealing with arts. Sometimes I even wish I was an artist just so that I can do more and more art just for the sake of art! Art for the sake of entertainment or fun is also valid for me. How about art for education?

    Yet again, aren’t all these parts of ‘life’? When art is a mirror of life, I think that it’s mirroring a portion of life at a time and that is very difficult to relate to. Not only is that a portion of life that we probably can’t see, but it’s also a portion of the artist’s life that we probably don’t know much about. An artist was a dancing queen, only seventeen at some point in their lives and maybe he/she thinks and sees it in a way that will always be true. I know many people who are dancing queens, only seventeen, in their thirties. However, the point is the artist did mirror a point of his/her life or a life that we just can’t relate to.

    Even if the mirroring was at the level of entertainment, art, education, socio-political cause, environment, etc… it is, somehow, “life”, no?

    Another enjoyable read. Keep up the good work.

    • dimamatta

      I’ll have to agree with you Raffi, art wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t used for all the purposes you cited (education, entertainment, socio-political causes…). When I think about it, sometimes it’s JUST exactly those purposes that give art the strength and “larger than life” feel to it. It definitely does go beyond itself, I guess that’s why a lot of people believe that art is transcendental.
      In this post, I was just reflecting upon the quasi-enslavement of art, how people during a certain era, believed that art is useless if it isn’t an EXACT copy of reality.
      Even my grandmother sometimes tells me while watching a movie (Lord of the Rings, for example): “what’s the use of watching it? It’s so unreal!”

      Thanks for your comment, gives me something to think about 🙂

  • Sergej Schellen

    A promise!!! yes yes I had made a promise earlier that I would comment on this wonderful blog post. You would never guess how I did remember. I shall tell you later so remind me of that. Anyway art is a mirror of reality but what is reality? Reality is an art work by the greatest artist of all.. God. And therefore art definitely is a mirror but is it just a cheap imitation then? Well I’d like to think of each individual art work to be the personal interpretation the artist has of the greater work of art which is nature. So art is not just any simple mirror but the mirror through the eyes of the artist. Making each mirror unique and original and thus the wide variety of art.

  • Lana

    Indeed, “art is a mirror.” A time machine, a portal, a super sunday with extra “perfoomativity.” How you got to include vampires/werewolves,Abba,and Starbucks in one blog, I’ll never know. Sounds like you’ve carefully considered your audience. Hmmm… Does that put me in the front row? You’re not going to pull a Brecht on me and hang up a sign that says: Lana, I’m talking to you,” are you?

  • Vart Tchangoulian

    To me art was always and still is a mirror; it echoes life directly or indirectly. However, I can vividly understand what you mean by saying “Art for art’s sake”…you have a point at a certain angle because sometimes one gets tired from searching the meaning of a work and wants simply to enjoy the work as it is without complicating himself/herself. So, all I can say it that art is an amalgam of reality and entertainment and as Abakanowisz says: “Art will remain the most astonishing activity of mankind born out of struggle between wisdom and madness, between dream and reality in our mind.”
    Loved the blog Congrats…:)

    • dimamatta

      Thanks Vart for this lovely comment 🙂
      This Abakanowisz was a wise man, I can definitely see the struggle between wisdom and madness and dream and reality, this ink is all over papers!
      Today, I learned a new word called “camp”. Susan Sontag, who wrote the “manifest” of camp said that “The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric — something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” So basically, it is not what people would regularly call art because sometimes it’s tacky or not so esthetical, but at the same time it is art par excellence because it mirrors the subcultures it originates from. That, for me, is a mixture of wisdom and madness 🙂

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