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Story and narrative are powerful tools for understanding and coping with life, for finding hope and meaning that fuel our soul. Great literature does this for us and can be a kind of existential therapy, exploring the meaning of life events and dealing with themes such as life and death.

Listen to how this team helped prisoners in the Missouri jail system through a theater program where the inmates stage Hamlet. On this episode of This American Life.

Shakespeare gave me a flower too. I walked across the park to the theater in the moonlight and saw it growing there, about to shed its seeds. I picked it and looked up right into his eyes. Ironically, he was on the theater’s wall just far enough away to give the illusion that his image was life sized, a few feet away, looking back at me.

I love that the Orlando Shakespeare Theater is not-for-profit. They have donated over 50 tickets now for a domestic violence shelter, a ministry to underpriviledged kids, migrant children, and a residential facility for teens with substance use problems. These were all places I worked and shared the love of Shakespeare. The script, story, and show were perfect for sharing and discussing with the teens at The Grove Academy. We didn’t even have standing seats!; Hamlet was meant for us!

“Queen:

Thou know’st ’tis common: all that lives must die,

Passing through nature to eternity.

Hamlet:

Ay, madam, it is common.

Queen:

If it be,

Why seems it so particular with thee?

Hamlet:

Seems, madam? nay, it is, I know not “seems.”

‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,

Nor customary suits of solemn black,

Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,

No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,

Nor the dejected havior of the visage,

Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,

That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,

For they are actions that a man might play;

But I have that within which passes show,

These but the trappings and the suits of woe.”

Hamlet Act 1, scene 2, 72–86 So his inward thoughts are different than his outward “show”? His inner thoughts “surpass” the outward show? There’s the rub. William Shakespeare – To be, or not to be (from Hamlet 3/1)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember’d.”

I want to be this man’s friend. He says to all his friends who read his shows:

In modern English:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake, forbear*,

To dig the dust encloséd here.

Blessed be the man that spares these stones,

And cursed be he that moves my bones.

Hamlet is just another man’s show;a small seed, a small element of something eternal, bound up in the heart of Shakespeare and all men passed.

 

For more info from Rachel Hofer check www.lovingtherapy.com

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