When I was in high school, I memorized a speech from Hamlet, on my own time, for my own pleasure, and without a grade being on the line. Why would a teenager do this? I was a theater nerd, and I read that Hamlet was the role that a young actor had to perform to be a true artist. I was mocked by some, but mostly admired for having the initiative to learn the soliloquy, and in an effort to be cool I would sometimes bust out the speech at parties. One time I dislocated my kneecap when a buddy picked me up in a bear hug and put me down before my leg was ready.
There are many famous speeches in Hamlet, but I chose the “O What a rogue and peasant slave am I” speech from Act II Scene II. In it Hamlet reacts to watching some actors crying and wailing over a character named Hecuba, he is galled that “in a fiction, in a dream of passion” these performers could muster such emotion, while he was impotent to do anything about his father’s murder. I now see why I was so inspired. As I write, I am transported to that thing that stirred me to study something for the pleasure of it. It was what I wanted to do with my life.
As I was seeding the soil of my dreams to act, in New Jersey, Prince was blossoming with his artistry across the globe, and I draw no parallel in these two paths. It’s just that as the news broke, my present self feels sad, mourns, and my Hamlet self is fighting to say, “who is he to Hecuba, or Hecuba to he” about my feeling of loss for someone I never knew. Who is Prince to me? That’s a long boring story being told over and over on all media.
Hamlet is mad at the actors, for their ability to weep for a fictitious character, but he is mostly mad at himself, for his inaction. I think some artists are so prolific and so in tune with their creator and creative channel that they elevate their status from the group, (meaning humans) that they take on mythical proportions. They become more than men, they move us, and if they nurture their gift they produce volumes of material at a pace that feeds the mere spectator whenever they reach for it. This feeds as simple entertainment, but when it is so good and, when so much of the artist’s soul goes into the work, it becomes more, dare I say it takes on Shakespearian scope. I am an avowed Springsteen fanatic, it comes with a birth certificate in New Jersey. I know Minnesotans feel the same way about Prince, but Prince music is in heavier rotation in my life’s soundtrack. Bruce is great, but his slow jam output leaves much to be desired, if you know what I’m saying?
The easy take is that I am mourning my youth, as are many, but for me losing Prince is like losing Shakespeare, in, that, years from now we will explain that there was a time when we listened to music, and watched videos, and forgave some iffy acting, just to see him on stage where he was untouchable. Where a cross-genre virtuoso had no peer, where a talent and work ethic was singular. He told an interviewer that he shunned categories, but if he had to say, it would be to inspire. And that’s what dawned on me, he inspired me. And I mourn that I have so much to do, but that to inspire is all art’s purpose. His spirituality can’t be left out of the story. I struggle with mine. Not sure what to believe, or what to do. Like Hamlet, I have a “motive and cue for passion”, but I need to act on it more. Prince tells you it is the spirit, it is God (as you define him/her) that you look to serve, to help some people figure this shit out.
It is why I mourn a guy they say wouldn’t allow eye contact, which might have been a running gag on the world, who dressed like a bullfighter, and who knew what he was sent here to do. So, to jump on the bandwagon, but, at least quote the source, I say “Goodnight, sweet, Prince.”