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To Blog, or Not To Blog

That is the question. I figure what better way to kick off this blog than with a reflection on the greatest soliloquy of all time. Blogs, I suppose, are 21st Century soliloquies, wherein the author can "unpack his heart with words" before the invisible audience of cyberspace, as 17th Century Hamlet wrestled with the slings and arrows of his fortune before the hidden audience of Claudius and Polonius.


What makes Hamlet such a great play and the "To Be" speech such a great work of literature? Well, that has been the subject of many books and graduate theses, but from the perspective of this lowly blogger/soliloquist the themes of reality make this play so compelling. Is reality subjective? Do we make our own reality? How do the perceptions of others affect our perceptions of ourselves?


In the speech, Hamlet is ostensibly wrestling with whether or not to kill himself. However, the speech takes on a different meaning when viewed in the context of the entire play. The "be" of "to be or not to be" can refer to "living," but it can also refer to "acting," as in taking physical action against one's fate or destiny. ("And lose the name of action" is the final line of the speech.) That verb itself takes on an additional meaning, as it can also refer to "acting" like an actor in a play, putting on a performance for others. In the play, Hamlet assumes the guise of a madman to enact his plan of revenge against his uncle. As the play progresses, it becomes increasingly unclear (both to the audience and to Hamlet himself) whether his "madness" is real or feigned.


It is this theme that makes this play (first performed in 1609) so relevant today. In today's world of social media, how often do we present an alternate depiction of our own reality to others? For those of us in the veteran community, how often do we assume a different guise to assimilate into civilian society? At what point do our "performances" begin to shape our perception of ourselves? How do others' perceptions of us factor into the equation? Shakespeare examines these fantastic questions throughout the play, but the audience is left to draw their own conclusions about the enigmatic Danish prince.


Taking a page from Hamlet's book (folio?), I am merely posing questions here and not providing any answers. For one, it is much easier to ask questions than to answer them, but also, perhaps we are only really meant to answer these questions for ourselves alone.


To conclude this little cyber-soliloquy, who better to explore the themes of reality, authenticity vs. artifice, and discovery of one's true self, than the British comedy troupe Monty Python?



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