Hamlet and Star Wars and what fiction is

18.23, Wednesday 16 Dec 2015

Look, Hamlet. Hamlet is such a non-nonsensical story. All rational, makes sense, about feelings, betrayal, etc. I must have written a dozen essays on Oedipal blahblahblah. Yet the play opens with them meeting a ghost! What is that?? What gets me is I’ve never questioned this, it fits with the narrative so well. So what are we seeing – is the ghost some manifestation of the group unconsciousness, the reaction of the court to the actions of the king and queen so totally repressed that the only way it can come out is as a thing with its own body and agency, independent from any individual? And why have I overlooked this so far? Is it because when I read about the ghost in Hamlet I accept it because honestly that’s just how things are: The world is inhabited by us and also by these forces that emerge from us all, but are claimed by no-one… and so we treat them as if they are real even though they aren’t? I don’t know. But the ghost isn’t a chorus… it’s not part of the staging. The guards meet the ghost! Hamlet meets the ghost!

Oh gosh now here’s a thing: the Ghost was originally played by Shakespeare himself.

… which reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the way the Monolith is the shape of the cinema screen itself, and most of the shots seems practically built to remind you that (a) the screen has edges where we are and so via the Monolith we intrude, and (b) that the director is behind the camera and has a viewpoint somethingsomething

… and I’m reminded of the astounding stage adaption of His Dark Materials in which black-clad puppeteers controlled the character’s omnipresent animal familiars - fading from our notice during the first 3 hour part of the play - and then in the second segment, they visit the underworld, and are told that we are followed around the whole time by our own death, always there, always invisible, at which point the puppeteers remove their masks. Tingles.

somethingsomething a crack between our world and the fiction world

(I have an assumption that authors and directors are all always talking about the weird timelessness of fiction and the roles of the author and spectator/reader, because that’s the world THEY inhabit. Even, I don’t know, Greg Egan with Schild’s Ladder which is the hardest of hard sci-fi, could he be any more preoccupied with the nature of crafting a story and how it gets in and out of the page? The entire thing is a metaphor down to the new bubble universe being like the solid pages of a book, and the spaceships weaving themselves like story being constructed letter by letter.)

… and somethingsomething I’m reminded of this 2005 piece about Star Wars and what The Force really is. Being:

the characters come to understand that there is another agent, external to themselves, that is dictating the action. Within the films’ fiction, that force is called … er, “the Force.” It’s the Force that makes Anakin win the pod race so that he can get off Tatooine and become a Jedi and set all the other events in all of the other films in motion. We learn that Anakin’s birth, fall, redemption, and death are required to “bring balance to the Force” and, not coincidentally, to give the story its dramatic shape.

And so, yes:

The Force is, in other words, a metaphor for, or figuration of, the demands of narrative. The Force is the power of plot.

There’s a ghost in Hamlet! The ghost was played by Shakespeare! Dunno, good grief, I’m broken, draw your own conclusions.

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