In Reply to: • History abounds with wisdom posted by Ion Saliu on June 20, 2001.
This above all:
To thine own self be true,
for it must follow as dost the night the day,
that canst not then be false to any man.
- Shakespeare ("Hamlet") inspired by Socrates ("Know thyself", quoting Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi).
I didn't know exactly the author and the work. But it sounded decidedly Shakespearean in form. The essence was indubitably Socratic.
There is no doubt in my mind that Philosophy was Shakespeare's first true love. He realized that, unfortunately, his era was not favorable to philosophy. England might have been more relaxed than Catholic Europe, but religion was still king. A brutal and unforgiving king, for that matter. Shakespeare was fully aware that he must have made severe compromises if he wanted to be known as a philosopher. He didn't want the compromise. He wanted to stay alive, for he knew he had a significant role to play. This is an excellent example of perfect big ego, combined with high self-esteem. Shakespeare wrote art, leaving his philosophy to the future to decipher, with ease and joy…
My Shakespearean experience is not English — it's Romanian. My reading of Shakespeare has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. There are great translations of Shakespeare in the Romanian language. The translations are renewed every generation to capture the cultural and linguistic evolution. Yes, the immortal one has a new meaning from era to era — in addition to the never-changing meaning of his work. I have a sense that every non-English speaking culture has great translations of William Shakespeare adapted to the local language of the day. My sense also is that the Americans would love Shakespeare even better if they had translations into the contemporary idiom. I believe the English people themselves, those living on the same territory as Great Will, need a linguistic refresher. Most of them don't comprehend Shakespeare in original, although many pretend they understand Him perfectly!
One thing remains impressive as in the very original:
To be or not to be, that's the question.
How many of us, men at least, have shown off their acting prowess by delivering the opening of the greatest monologue of all time? I did it so many times that I willingly became to be known as a Shakespearean fanatic. Some even thought I resembled him, the eyes and broad forehead… My strongest feeling, unconsciously for the most part, was that I was as ugly as Socrates. I realize now how beneficial that feeling has been to me. It saved me from strong romantic attachments, especially early in life. And, thus, I remained true to my own self, as the day followed my lonely night.
Other than Socratic, my life has been Shakespearean on most facets of the dice. I was strongly attracted to a woman named Ofelia. It was a common female name in her region — Western Romania. To me, it was Shakespeare's Ophelia. No man would ever be more comfortable with a woman than I was with Ofelia. I mean, it was as natural as knowing that everything is a unity of two opposites. It certainly was wonderful. I wanted to give our child the most beautiful name. Ofelia and I talked about it a lot. There was no debate. If we had to have a boy, his name would have been Gabriel Hamlet. That is, Gabriel Hamlet Saliu. He would have had the liberty of spelling his name as Salius, as in good old Latin. Gabriel was in direct reverence to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that my ex-wife, Ofelia, and I admired as the greatest novelist in history (read: A Hundred Years of Solitude).
We had a daughter. I wanted to give her the most beautiful name; all fathers do that. I and my ex-wife named our daughter Amaranta Ofelia. We said we didn't want something Shakespearean, but could we have avoided that? Not! Non! I mean, a woman named Ofelia who married a Shakespearean freak that friends called Hamlet! Nature does call back. She was two. Two years old, my daughter was. She didn't know nothing about the Shakespearean games her parents were playing. She was just a human being. But did she know who she was! You know, kids don't start singing songs of their own. They start singing songs they heard before. My daughter, Ami, started her muse(ical) career by singing a song of her own. It was her composition in totality. I mean, it may well be the situation in operas. They must say something, sometimes; so, it's not where the greatest musical part is in operas. But they say it musically. That's how my daughter, Ami, felt about it. She knew that kids are more pleasant to their parents if they sing. My daughter was quick to learn a song. It was music of her own. She would touch me and sing:
My name, too, is Saliu, Amaranta, Ofelia.
Her pauses were musical, too. I mean, it was not great music, in the classical sense, at least. But you won't hear a child, indeed a grown-up, with a more keen awareness of reality on notes. Did you know that we live a reality on notes? They did, hundreds of years ago. They expressed everything metrically. Like Will Shakespeare did — so beautifully. One might lose one's pair — but it's okay if not losing one's metrics…
There is one final thought. This webpage of mine scores very high on Google searches regarding the Shakespearean adagio. I noticed also frequent searches on the translation of Shakespeare's phrase into Latin. I sound like prodigious in Latin because I use quite a few Latin sayings. I studied Latin in high school for one year. The only thing I know in Latin is a collection of sayings and maxims.
In any event, I researched the Internet and I found a very good Latin translation of To thine own self be true:
Tibi ipsi esto fidelis.
Now, it's all in one place!
I watched the deservingly touted 2009 DVD production of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company. As in my post, Shakespeare's English sounds more like an extraterrestrial idiom than a language of today's Homo sapiens. The vast majority of contemporary Britons have a very hard time understanding Shakespeare's English. Forget about the Americans! Languages change almost faster than technologies.
So, the aforementioned Hamlet production updated Great Will's language to today's reality — while maintaining a lot of the original sentences! That was remarkable! The Hamlet film also accented Shakespeare's connection to the Ancient Greek world. Hamlet is a two-in-one creation. Denmark (the metaphor of England) lives in parallel with Ancient Greece (a true world power two millennia before). Shakespeare's wisdom is definitely an expression of Socrates' wisdom.
The modern interpretation of Hamlet reminded me of two great Romanian film and stage directors: Liviu Ciulei and Lucian Pintilie. Liviu Ciulei especially became notorious for a very modern interpretation of Hamlet with a New York theater company in the early 1980's. It was Hamlet in blue jeans, like the 2009 production of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Liviu Ciulei was also famous for a modern interpretation of Elisabeth I. I watched that play in person — the entire audience watched in ecstasy!
One of the reasons I fled Communist Romania for the United States was filmmaking. I wanted to create great films at a higher level than any other filmmaker, including the two Romanian creators I just mentioned. I believe I had the stuff to be better than anybody. But I soon realized that the art of film was dead in America … therefore almost dead in the entire world. Ciulei and Pintilie were paid by the communist government as regular employees. They were also handsomely paid by Western (capitalist) organizations (theaters, especially) to put in production their ideas. I didn't have such luxuries. But, thankfully, I realized that my mission in life was philosopher, not artist!
Know thyself! To thine own self be true! Long live Randomness!
Read Ion Saliu's first book in print: Probability Theory, Live!
~ Discover profound philosophical implications of the Formula of TheEverything, including randomness, life: To thine own self be true.