Wednesday, July 25, 2007

That Within Which Passeth Show

Suspend for the duration all your preconceived notions about Shakespeare received from literary critics and journalists. To understand a real poet, you must strip away all the layers of sludge from around your heart and let it respond to the poet. If we truly have souls, then we have a genuine heart, perhaps unknown to us, that can hear the poetic muse.

Let us meet the poet: he sees, not in a purely rational or clairvoyant sense, but in an intuitive poetic sense, that he stands on the threshold of a new world. This new world is not a better world. It is a world split apart by the Aristotleian-Thomistic separation of reason from grace. And the Protestant reaction to the break has not put the splintered wreck of the faith back together again. Henceforward, that pernicious heresy of the intellect divorced from the heart, the Gnostic heresy, would be a force to be reckoned with.

The poet saw the new force corrupting all of Europe. He saw a new Christianity, crafted onto the old Christianity. This new Christianity, spawned from the isolated intellect, was of necessity a dialectical faith. It set husband against wife, brother against brother, reason against grace, clergy against layman, and the heart against the intellect. In short, the poet saw the complete dislocation of man from the life of God. God would henceforth exist only as an intellectual construct. Man was on his own, left to intellectually conjugate God, but doomed never to know Him again.

But the Bard knew God. Giving his hero the name of his dead son, who was living (he firmly believed) in the arms of his Lord, the Bard launched Hamlet into the world to attack the Gnosticism of the new religion. But he wanted his hero to be a real hero. He wanted his hero to face the heresy of the age and of the future and to defeat that heresy.

Hamlet comes from the University, where students regularly have their heads severed from their hearts and souls. He suffers from the Gnostic disease himself and seems to be at a loss as to how to deal with the ill tidings he has received from his father's ghost. He is scared, confused, and angry. He is out of joint and not capable, as he acknowledges – "Oh cursed spite" – of setting things right.

But by the end of the play he does set things right. How? Because Hamlet loves. If one looks only at external events, Hamlet is a murderer, a usurper, and a cad who drives a young woman to suicide. But we who have followed Hamlet through the maze know differently. Hamlet loved his noble father; those pseudo-theologians who tell us that Hamlet is damned for following the vengeful dictates of his father fail to see how the Ghost's injunctions differ from mere pagan blood-letting ("Leave her to heaven") just as they fail to see how nature and grace blend together in a Christian soul.

Likewise Hamlet loves his mother in more than just the Freudian sense. And Ophelia? Is it possible to doubt that he loved her? No! It is at Ophelia's grave that Hamlet finally puts his own fragmented soul together: "This is I, Hamlet the Dane."

And when Hamlet walks out alone to fight a duel that he knows will mean death, he does so because he accepts that --

[T]there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.
The reason Hamlet has held such fascination over the years for the general audience and for the literary critic is that he is the first stage hero to confront modernity. Thus the literary critic will delight in dissecting the 'sicko' who defies modernity, and the base, common populace will champion or condemn Hamlet depending on how far down the modern slope they have traveled.
But let us not have any doubt that it is modernity which Hamlet confronts in the person of Claudius. Claudius is the post-Christian man, the precursor of the anti-Christ. He knows the ways of God, he can ape the good well enough to fool even the elect, but his heart and soul are at the service of the devil.

It is significant that Hamlet, who is a genius, cannot move successfully against Claudius until he ceases to try to combat him with only his own genius. When he gives himself up to Divine Providence and acts in the fullness of his personality as King and son, he defeats Claudius. And between his discovery of his uncles' treachery and his death, Hamlet gives us the definitive refutation of modernity. Remember when Rosencrantz and Guildendstern, acting for Claudius, try to exploit their former friendship with Hamlet in order to "pluck out the heart of his mystery"? Hamlet finds them out with ease and speaks not only to them, but to Claudius and all psychotherapists, neoclassicists, formalist theologians, and Gnostics of the modern world when he enjoins them to "play upon the pipe."

Hamlet. Will you play upon this Pipe?

Guildenstern. My Lord, I cannot.

Ham. I pray you.

Guild. Believe me, I cannot.

Ham. I do beseech you.

Guild. I know no touch of it, my Lord.

Ham. 'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most excellent Music. Look you, these are the stops.

Guild. But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony, I have not the skill.

Ham. Why look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me: you would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops: you would pluck out the heart of my
Mystery; you would sound me from my lowest Note, to the top of my Compass: and
there is much Music, excellent Voice, in this little Organ, yet cannot you make it. Why do you think, that I am easier to be play'd on than a Pipe? Call me what
Instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

Yes, only the heart can know the mystery of another heart. To the intellect alone, the heart remains an enigma. Horatio, whose philosophy is inadequate, still has enough heart to pronounce the correct benediction for his friend and King.

Now cracks a noble heart. –good night, sweet prince;And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!—
Shakespeare sets the stage for us. The Gnostics will always be at war with the God-Man. They hate, like Satan, anything that is tainted with humanity. So above all, they hate the Incarnation and the civilization that placed the Incarnate God at its center. What Shakespeare tells us in the conflict between Claudius and Hamlet is that we cannot defeat the Claudiuses of the world if we are like unto them. It cannot be brain against brain, Moriarity against Holmes. It must be the integral, heroic man of heart and blood against the disembodied, heartless, bloodless villain – it must be Hamlet vs. Claudius, Tell vs. Gessler, Bulldog Drummond vs. Peterson, and the Scarlet Pimpernel vs. Chauvelin.

The bloodless, chestless men will always be with us. They are the waste products of a Christian civilization; but they should not be at the center of our culture. It is the duty of white Europeans to push them back to the dark fringes of civilization.

Hamlet curses the day that he was "born to set it right." But he ultimately accepts his destiny and he does set it right. The white European hero culture is Hamlet's culture. It is our culture, and it is His culture. We are called to defend it against the white technocrat, the colored hordes, and against all the forces of hell.

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