Don Cheney

   I got to move!
     -James Brown

Singing the Body Hamlet

The phenomenon of artists guarding the entrance to their complete works has become an island.

However, every phenomenon is not an island.

Suppose you're late to a race and your laces are untied. The one thing you can't factor into that is art.


Goethe wrote as if he could tie all of the laces together into one LARGE novel. In this mythical novel, the hero trips over his shoelaces into Hamlet and, instead of being laughed at, is eaten by those nice young men and their new human consciousness.

But, while Goethe's work was not constrained by Shakespeare's limits, it was constrained by the limits of the old novel, the novel of grin-and-bear-it, of try-and-ye-shall-be-told-how-to-write-in-the-tradition-of-the-English-novel.

And out came Faust.

The people who wrote in the old novel tradition were the same people who raced down one city street or other without once thinking of one artistic phenomenon or other.

Goethe then wrote a philosophical novel on the history of art. He analyzed ancient art and modern art as if either could possibly be illuminated by a street lamp that had been left burning for an entire epoch.

Then he looked at Hamlet.

Hamlet's father, now dead and in America, had seen death low-ball his uncle.

Hamlet's mother had seen her uncle castrated.

Goethe decided that action like this was as necessary for God and man as it was for Shakespeare and Claudius. Like a vase planted with carnations, the carnations crept and ran and rioted, destroying the vase.

The carnations were lavender and gold.

Is that right?

Hamlet's no devil. And he's no coward. And he's no vain Shakespeare, ending tragedies with a pot of tea and an oasis ofethics.

Fortinbras says:

     -I ruined four of my best hats when that creep
     Hamlet started talking war.  Hah! If the twerp
     had been playing "TRON," dig!, he wouldn't have
     sided with that fat potentate...-
And you thought Hamlet was a hero.

So why is it so hard for Shakespeare to believe that Hamlet wanted to kill the king and marry the queen?

Laertes, on the other side, is one mediocre dude. Son of the vulgar courtesan Polonius, he wants to have dinner with his father, push his nose in the dessert and then run naked through the palace.

Claudius, the new king, is as quick to pop a 'lude as he is to pop a boner over Hamlet. He's a nasty man and, because he doesn't have to work, everything he knows he knows as a name and not as an immediate reaction.

Ophelia gets named when she says, "Everyone knows who I am, but not everyone knows who I'm going to be."

Oh, fie!

Hamlet's a student, one of those New Consciousness men. He's brave and so far ahead of Laertes in art that it's a crime. He alone can run naked through the palace like a pirate. He'sastute and his astuteness acts as a fence to keep out his enemies.

In his hands there are wrinkles and in his wrinkles there is power.

The king is assassinated and, as soon as the dice slip from his hand, his apparition appears and trips the light phantasm with his son.

The people witness this phantasm, but they can't think of the word for it.

They can't move.

Hamlet is pissed at his mother, but he can't yell until he knows what his anger means.

He can't move.

Language modifies relationships between people.

Hamlet loves Ophelia but not her brother Laertes.

The deal with Ophelia and her brother Laertes is that they are both vulgar. They are the offspring of the juicy--or so he says--Polonius.

Ophelia lets her father listen to her erotic phone calls to the local high school principal, where she pretends to be a woman without principles.

Laertes, after being intimate with and rejected by Hamlet, feels vengeful and is about to give in to his vengeance, when his vengeance is tempered by the realization that he is vulgar, that he is the son of Polonius, and that he is about as astute as a forester armed with escargot.

And about as bright as the grime on the streets of Venice.

So, consciousness seeps into this tragedy, but not without first exacting everything latent in tragedy.

For example, Hamlet's astuteness makes an exit by planting a kiss, with all the condiments, on Hamlet's dead father, thus substituting subtlety for the orders to have his enemies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, executed.


Shakespeare recalling the time, Jehovah's witnesses at the door,he loaded two Lugers and said, "Come in."

In folklore, we know this as "the kiss of ultimate change." In Russia, we know this from the famous play, "Make Mine The Afterlife."

Hamlet, then, is captured by pirates, something my son only dreams of, and his freedom is presented as a test of national security.

And this situation coincides quite literaturely with the day my rent is due.

At the base of this tragedy are Hamlet's dialogues. The accordion he plays never seeps into the story, not because there isn't a story to seep into, but because the accordion hadn't decided to be invented yet.

Hamlet is the new accordion on the block.

He's got more books than fucking looks and then, you wanna know why?

Because he's on top of the motherfucking world, ma!

And collecting old books is no more for Hamlet than is talking bad words.

And my intention is to talk bad words, to make a new world from this old, decaying one.

The more books Hamlet collects, the more he doubts that there is relation between cause and effect.

The only cure for a Hamlet like this is to put him in La La Land and have Ophelia tie him up.

Ophelia loves Hamlet. She wants to tie him up. She wants to have a house with him. She wants to talk with his dead father...

The list goes on.

Because, to Ophelia, haste makes relationships. And only time and money can cure her of talking more out of habit than desire.

The local cure for a habitual relationship is to travel and topretend you have a new, authentic relationship.

What a concept!

Her brother Polonius is no geek. He's a man juicy as the world is old, or so he says. But the dude wants to love his mother at the expense of his father. And the last thing he wants to do is trust any of these feelings to Ophelia. His conscious won't set him free.

Hamlet is an artist, and the last thing he wants to do is admit there ever was an old world. His New Consciousness won't allow him to do such a leap in time.

And if you can't do the leap in time, don't do the crime.

Claudius is as vulgar as he is corrugated. And he wants to kill Hamlet's father and sleep with his mother.

Or so Shakespeare would have us believe.

It's this kind of incongruity that makes me reach for my lunch. But lunch is fodder, hand to handjob, crime to criminal.

And it's no crime to be the new dead king on the block, never having rained into a second marriage.

And what a second marriage it would've been! It would've included all the sin and none of the accessories. It would've included trips to the medieval barber, a new King baby, all the wine you can drink and a twenty one-cannon-salute.

The new consciousness is seen in Claudius, in the rain and in Ophelia. The contradiction is felt as the old world is felt-- phrenologically.

Aleksandr Herzen, in his article, "Bely the Dummy," said that the sum of reading Bely reading Hamlet equaled the salsa produced when you find out that tonights "Simpsons" is a rerun:

     Aristotle, who would play until sunrise, talked
     just like Orlando Cepeda. Cervantes, who,
     ironically, had a terrible accent, thought of
     the world as a great big den of impotence and
     lost opportunity. Boccaccio thought of his life
     as frail and catatonic. Rabelais, who had the
     impertinence to be born in France, was not all
     there. All the world's a Shakespeare.  And all
     the Shakespeare's a world. He sat down during the
     Romantic Epoch of art and stood up to inaugurate
     the New Epoch. He basically thought of himself as
     a subjective being in total control of his
     profundity. He always had plenty of attitude. He
     was always so passionate and infinite that he
     wasn't sure if he was on fire or just screaming
     down the halls of romanticism without being able
     to see past his past.

This altercation in writing is another example of how life can modify the significance of art.

Vissarion Belinski, very articulate in "On the Density of Literature," wrote:

     Shakespeare ran smack into poetry wherever he
     traveled, but he also ran smack into his
     creditors, who didn't know La La Land from "A La
     Recherche du Temps Perdu." In general, the
     "naturalness" of the new art lies in its
     preponderance with being equilibrium to the
     continent (content) and its form.

Intimate stuff!

The stuff words are made of. In this case, the words express Shakespeare's dynamic form.

Herzen then starts talking about moving outside, toward a Hegelian truth and how

     ...doing conceptual art was seen as seeking
     the favor of the ruling class, as being one
     eunuch in a long succession of eunuchs. Just
     have lunch and retire, because the truth does
     not live here, it lives with its son, peeling
     serpents' tails and waiting for the last major
     sale of the season, the selling of liberty...

and the consciousness from which it springs and of which I sing.


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