Shakespeare, icons, archetypes, current affairs (and riots)

Two great programmes on BBC Radio 4 today, Mon March 16th.

The common theme is Shakespeare, but the relevance of his works today is, as ever, telling. He handles this through connection to archetypal material. An archetype is a symbol of some universal theme, or to cite Richard Dawkins, some current theme, the meme. When I trained as a drama therapist we worked directly with archetypal material in our work. An archetype, when understood as a universal symbol, stands in for one idea or phenomena, to allow shifting of dicourse from one form or context to another. The archetype of archetypes is Hermes as he can travel between worlds. He is the god of thieves and all art starts with theft. Learning is theft.

In both of these programmes, originally run back to back, Shakespeare’s work becomes a conduit through which to shift ancient and archetypal phenomena into the present. Hermes, through creativity, art or journalism, or writing, steals the idea from the past, from the gods, and gives it as a gift to humans today, like Prometheus stole fire, another archetypal form.

There is stuff about Trump and Twitter Spats, American history, the role of popular movies in political or philosophical discourse or not, and the astonishing tale of the Astor Palace Riot in which Shakespeare and ‘The English Actor’ was responsible for the deaths of 31 rioting commoners at the hands of the US militia. The only other ‘art riot’ I know of is Ballet Russes riot at the Rite.

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