The theater, the cinema and ourselves (1947)

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dear to England and had at last become repugnant committed suicide. England was growing up and in growing up killed its past self, a belief in the divine right of kings, that it had once loved so dearly. The Hanovarians were the embodiment of a new idea, kingship as a convenience. The belief in a divine king had gone and a bourgeois England stepped into the skin of a bourgeois monarch. The Hanovarians still strutted, for the ordinary man still strutted too, but it was a swank rather than a strut, and the Prince Regent was known to laugh at himself. When Victoria ascended the throne the taste for strutting was passing, there had been executions on the continent. Besides how could a very young girl, who later was to become a little widow in black, strut? Victoria created a new England and a new England created Victoria, they lived in each other, both felt themselves the chosen of God, that was their strength and their weakness. But Victoria found that she and Gladstone could not both represent God to the nation. She could not link her arm as she had done with the flamboyant Disraeli, who was no incarnation of God, he was no rival in religious supremacy, he was too much a man of the world to suggest anything so controversial. A sovereign in a biography, play or film can be a very human, a very personal symbol of a nation's feelings. But little more. In spite of some charming and life-like plays the sovereign's real self must nearly always end in the nation's conception. Possibly as we grow more and more weary of descriptions and types we shall discard this nation-created conception of a sovereign. But it is difficult to picture what will follow. Press agents and propaganda seem to be an inevitable part of the national machinery of which the sovereign is in many ways the centre and without which it is doubtful whether the machinery would function at all. But press agents seldom interfere directly with the life of the theatre or with the chief films that most cinemas present and this gives both an important position in a democratic state. 6. MODERNIZING HAMLET Descriptive characters, good or bad, will always be waiting for dull unimagina- tive people to copy as they copy well-known pictures in public galleries. To re-create a character anew and not to copy would to them mean failure. But characters with the spark of life in them are also always waiting for someone to re-create in his own image. Hamlet is always with us because in him Shakespeare created so human a person that every player longs to enter the part and give us himself as Hamlet; only the second-rate "act" the part, or try to reduce it to mere description or a type. In Hamlet the intimate self of any player worthy of the name will out, he is Hamlet and himself, or he is nothing. Hamlet must be continually reborn, not "acted". It is natural that there should be attempts to modernize hamlet, either the whole setting of the play or Hamlet himself. But modernization is usually too impersonal J 3