The play’s the thing Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

The amazing thing about this strategy is that it works. Or rather, it works in this play. In real life, I’ve almost never seen someone use art to communicate something and have it directly understood. I think of all the love-sick mix-tapes I made as a young person. I was trying to say something (usually, “I LOVE you!”) and also trying very hard to mask it. So I’d put on “You Do Something to Me” and immediately follow it with The Smothers Brothers doing “The Streets of Laredo” and somehow expect my listener to both know I loved him and also be able to claim innocence in case he wasn’t interested. (And he usually wasn’t. Mix-tapes not usually being the thing that’ll win a man’s heart.)

I’ve watched people watching shows or movies that would seem to be exactly what they were struggling with and they can somehow emerge unaffected by the similarities of their lives and the characters. There have been many times in which I have been stunned by how the personal connections sail right past them. But Claudius gets it right away. Hamlet sets The Mousetrap and Claudius goes for the cheese and gets caught. Hamlet sets it up as a test and it totally works.

Which does remind me of that time I wrote a song about a man I liked and years later, after I didn’t really like him anymore, I played that song at a gig he happened to attend. And he totally caught it. He came up to me and said, “This may be one of those – ‘You’re so vain you probably think this song is about you’ situations. But I sort of thing that song is about me.” So sometimes Art does say what you meant it to say. Just maybe not when you meant to say it.


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