“you would pluck out the heart of my mystery…” –Hamlet to Guildenstern
For over 400 years, the world has attempted to pluck out the mystery of Hamlet’s heart, and Shakespeare’s as well – for his seems to be embodied within Hamlet’s. Close to 11,000 books have been written on the subject since Hamlet was first performed, and while there are numerous jewels of brilliant insight in that Hamletian Tower of Babel, much of it is indeed babble. The heart of Hamlet’s mystery remains ever-elusive and ever-evolving for it changes with and serves each generation that encounters it. In this short space, I have room only to say this: Directing Hamlet is not business as usual. The play exists on a plane and dimension unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is like stepping into a shaft of brilliant light filled with thousands of golden dust motes and you are led on a journey by the play – it directs you. The journey is as mystifying and frustrating as it is revelatory and inspiring. You realize quickly that you will never have the answers to the questions posed, and that the heart of it is meant to remain a mystery for all time, for its heart represents all the eternal and universal conundrums. And yet, the play invites you to grasp at a handful of its shimmering motes and to shape them to form your own vision. One feels a great sense of privilege in being allowed to step into the play’s sacred realm, and one feels honored to be able to tell its tale and take your tiny place in the great continuum that is Hamlet.
Sir Richard Burton said, “Hamlet is not a person but a quintessence.” One feels that is true, but he is also flesh and blood, indeed more than is almost bearable, for he is all of us. His dilemmas and his revelations are ours; his journey, like ours, is a staggering combination of glimpsed truths and peerings into the darkness. I’ve waited 25 years to “meet” Hamlet and accompany him to his final moment. Nothing could be worth such a lengthy wait more than this glorious, heartbreaking quintessence of man and his inquiry about our place in nature and the great cosmos.