Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Worth of the Acting Profession

This question of the worth of dramatic acting -- "do actors improve or debase civil order? -- is grave. Denied entry into the ideal republic by Plato for the unworthiness of a life comprised of (absent justification) impostery; exposed by Dr. Johnson backstage for their titillating inveteracy; and compromised in advance of advocacy by their brotherhoood resounding allegient oaths to its thespian Prince, de Sade, the question is seemingly answered negatively in the very asking.

More than this, culpatory for actors is their (characteristically self-centrered) perennial fixation on their own worth. Bis interimitur qui suis armis perit. The prosecutorial case is condensed in the Shakepearean dictum "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (Hamlet, III, ii, 239.)

By way of example, consider a certain local wretch who, in mid-life still a drudge in servile trade, trumpets at any opportunity the 'surpassing regard' of his co-menials long past; would this unfortunate not be recognised universally as all but proving the meanness of his trade thereby? To quote again Dr. Johnson:
Sir, all the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune.
Paraphrasing for the present case, you never find people 'labouring to convince' that neurosurgery is a worthy & substantial profession.

This brings us to our lectures on Shakespeare in Love. The presence of perpetual self-engagement among theatrati is manifested (knowingly) in this screenplay in the villainisation of the Master of Revels and (unknowingly) as the guilt experienced by the character William Shakespeare at his impostory as Christopher Marlower: imposture being, by very definition, the whole business and purpose of actory.

Likewise, the ubiquity of scenes, lines and drama entire covering the drunkensome and erotomaniacal tenor of dramaturgy tells. Instance, from Yes, Minister, ostensibily on politicians:
But people on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober and say the lines they are given in the right order. Those that try to make up their own lines generally do not last long.
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas ....