Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I’ve been vacillating between bummed and fine for the past couple of weeks like a cranky ping-pong ball. Sometimes circumstance strikes such a crappy chord that nothing feels satisfying except moaning along, improvising some miserably trite lyrics about how everything sucks and everyone sucks worse. Eventually I get fed up with laying all fetal on my kitchen floor and complaining, remember that my problems are minute and uninteresting when compared with, oh, let’s say fucking Iran, listen to “Better Things” by the Kinks for a few hours and cheer the hell up. And it works. Onion rings are ingested with gusto; sunshine is enjoyed; books are finished and new ones are cracked enthusiastically.

And then Monday morning comes calling and I wake up for work still tired, and everyone else was smart enough to make the long weekend longer, and ennui leaks right back in like my life is the basement of a shitty suburban ranch house, and circumstance strikes again to make me embarrassed like I haven’t been since I was twelve and had braces and a short, mean kid named Mike read my journal over my shoulder on the seventh grade Frost Valley camping trip and threatened for three horrible days to out my childhood crush, and I go to sleep listening to the Cranberries without even a trace of irony.

This has lead to a lot of googling of and affection for the stupid Victorians and their melancholia, and its sister illness nostalgia. I wish I could still convince people what I’ve got was a disease (it’s not) instead of a sour mood (it is), a serious one, but one that could be cured with lots of laying around in bed in fancy nightgowns and being considered very fragile and having my whims catered to out of medical necessity.

So, yeah, googling melancholia eventually lead to googling Ophelia (grant me my melodrama, okay?), and then I found this amazing story about a notoriously wonderful performance of Hamlet back in 1720. Apparently there was this actress named Susan Mountfort who was relatively famous for the time, but who had been suffering from some non-descript madness induced by a broken heart. I mean, that’s the given diagnosis. The shit is, she got away from her nurse one night and ran to the theater where she used to perform. The troupe was performing Hamlet. She basically booted the chick who had been playing Ophelia out of the way right before the big mad scene, ran onstage, and gave one of the greatest Ophelia performances in history. And then, according to the story I found, “she died right after.”

That. Is all kinds of awesome.

If you put your sadness on a scale and hope its purpose is a sufficient counterweight, that story is a supremely romanticized example that, yeah, maybe things can balance. Sure, she was heartbroken enough to go legit bonkers, but that let her play such a good Ophelia you can still read about it 289 years later.
I can’t put my finger on why that’s a satisfying idea, but it is, and after a month of feeling more than my usual hue of blue I’ll take it. I’ll just keep throwing my lame little bummers on the balance one by one and trust that there’s a point to it all that’ll even me right back out.


Blogger Bonnie said...

That is an excellent story. I'm almost afraid to google it lest I dig too deep and find out it's only partially true.

Did the other actress kill her?

6:31 PM  

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