Tragedy moves like a ghost appearing in the most unexpected places. And in the midst of experience, philosophy seems both more and less important to our feeble attempts at understand suffering and loss.
While reading the fictional tragedy of Hamlet in my safe classroom, real tragedy moved “with Tarquin’s ravishing strides towards his design, moves like a ghost” in Connecticut. I saw, what I felt was the most moving and poetic speech of Barak Obama in a long time.
“Something is rotten in the state…” And while some may argue about constitutional rights, I will argue that “there is no meaning without context”. Rights upheld, should never be more of a threat, than rights denied. How I would dearly love to write more but, “break my heart for I must hold my tongue” and avoid digression into the political.
Instead, I will argue for philosophy, and poetry. The philosopher pursues wisdom; the poet pursues beauty. The allure of tragedy “puzzles the will” and the beauty associated with Ophelia‘s tragic death is timeless.
Ophelia is a child of nature, innocent, obedient, and powerless. She is a pawn in her father’s politics, and a victim of Hamlet’s misogyny. In the end, she becomes a victim of her own inaction.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
Therewith fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with her drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious buy
To muddy death.
Tragedy has much to teach us about action. May we all choose it with philosophy and poetry.