Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Death, Grief and Suicide in Hamlet - Part I

There is so much in Hamlet that resonates with me.  I have read through it twice; once on my own (using the No Fear Shakespeare version, which has the original play on the left side of the page and a modern translation on the right) and another while watching Kenneth Branagh's 4 hour movie adaptation.  I have written out long sections in my journal and pondered the relevance.   If you have never read Hamlet, I would encourage you to do so.

Hamlet is prince of Denmark. His father has been dead two months and to his chagrin, his mother Queen Gertrude, has married his father's brother, Claudius.  Hamlet's grief and despair knows no bounds as he witnesses this wedding on the heels of his father's funeral.  As a result of his melancholic disposition, he suffers a rebuke from the new King.
But to persever in obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness.  'Tis unmanly grief.
It shows a will more incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschooled (I, II, 92-97)
Basically Claudius is saying, "stop grieving and move on."  And that it is "unmanly" to be so despondent.  "How dare Claudius judge Hamlet's grief", my reading voice retorts.

When Hamlet is alone, we see the depths of his despair, wishing that suicide was not an act against God.  I don't like reading this but understand that for centuries, the church taught that suicide was an unpardonable sin.  We will see this again with the gravedigger's and priest's response to Ophelia's death.
Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter!  O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world! (I, II, 129-134)
At the end of Act I, the ghost of Hamlet's father reveals to Hamlet that he has been murdered by Claudius.  He wants his son to exact revenge for the loss of his life, wife and crown.  In parting, he voices what all the dead would say:  "Adieu, adieu, adieu.  Remember me."  I love Hamlet's response - his commitment to remembering his father.
Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.  Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter (I, V, 95-104).
"Remembering Josh" is the title of this blog - for a reason.  "Running to Remember Josh" was printed on the backs of this year's marathon/half-marathon shirts purposefully.  Is it too exaggerated to say that one of my life's ambition and goal is to remember my beloved son?  No, I don't think so.  It feels like a solemn, honorable duty - one that I could never tire of.  It is why his pictures are still all over the house, why I have a tattoo of his name, in his handwriting on my arm, why I visit his gravesite every week and write a letter to him, why I sometimes wear his clothes.

As long as Josh is remembered, he stays alive.

1 comment:

Your Friend from Canada said...

To Joshua's family:
I know you have heard this many, many times but I am very sorry for your loss.
To Joshua's mother:
I stumbled upon your blog today, and I wish I could take away your pain right now. I have no idea what you are feeling, but you have been writing in your blog for years and I feel the dedication and love that you feel for Josh after I read each one of your posts. It's the same pure love my mother has for me, my brother and my sister. My little brother is the "baby" just like Josh. He gets in a lot of trouble but my mom just loves him so much and believes in him when I can't see how. I see why now. You are a great person and I sincerely hope that you may one day recover and feel genuinely happy again. You don't know me, but just through your writing I can feel your sorrow, and I made this comment in the hope I would make you feel just a bit better.
Rest in Paradise Joshua Lee Anderson