Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The readiness is all

Alex T with Paapa Essiedu after another stunning performance as Hamlet. 2016 RSC Summer School memories: Cymbeline, Dr Faustus, Hamlet and The Alchemist and, in the Birthplace, a Chinese musical version of Coriolanus....

The readiness is all

It’s time to account for the title of my blog – The readiness is all. The internet address is actually “the readiness is all – let be” – without gaps and without the dash. Yes, it’s a quotation from Hamlet. Yes, Hamlet himself says it. Sometimes the “let be” is cut from productions (it’s only in the Second Quarto) but I’m convinced it’s a crucial line. I’ve always thought his “let be” was his hard-won answer to his earlier anxiety over “To be or not to be,” despite that notion not being favoured by scholars. The idea is simple – que sera sera – what will be will be – if he is going to die he will die. The time is ripe – or will be soon – or maybe tomorrow or another day. You could say it is a fatalistic and pessimistic world-view; or adopt my view and believe he means that he is going to live for the moment, live in the present, live for now, be mindful of existence and smell the roses. A similar sentiment occurs in King Lear (which I’ll see in a couple of weeks) when Edgar persuades his father, Gloucester, to struggle on for a few more minutes (despite being blinded and betrayed) – Edgar says Ripeness is all.
"The readiness is all" says Hamlet to Horatio in Hamlet - a school production I directed and Hamlet and Horatio in the RSC Simon Godwin production. "Ripeness is all" says Edgar to Gloucester in King Lear in the RSC Greg Doran production.

There is a tide in the affairs of men

I quoted Ripeness is all in my first blog (I will survive) and the blog before this one (To every thing there is a season) reminded me of the whole Readiness is all concept. Every year since about 1976 I’ve seen most Royal Shakespeare Company productions, increasingly so since 1986 when I started attending the RSC Summer School, the year the Swan Theatre opened (and the year I married Sally.) Every year the RSC re-inspires me to delve again into the work and context of the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre and find comfort in the ideas and themes that exploded into English Literature throughout those years (about 40 years from around 1585 to 1625.) At the most recent summer school I was lucky to see Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist alongside Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Cymbeline, the former in a stunning production starring Paapa Essiedu and the latter in a production that contained many fine moments and performances though, like the play (one of my favourites incidentally), was sometimes a bit weird.
Surviving RSC Summer School programmes from past 30 years and gadding about in Badby and round Stratford-upon-Avon

From Hamlet Act Five Scene Two

Horatio:
If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither and say you are not fit.
Hamlet:
Not a whit, we defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all, since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.

From King Lear Act Five Scene Two

Edgar:
Away, old man, give me thy hand, away!
King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter taken.
Give me thy hand. Come on.
Gloucester:
No further, sir, a man may rot even here.
Edgar:
What, in ill thoughts again?
Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither.
Ripeness is all. Come on.
Gloucester:
And that’s true too.