Grief oh careless Grief
As a boy I was up in the Gods the five bob seats watching Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson and the rest ham it up. Then I was bored. Now I am in the swankies costing 200 times those hard and distant benches. It’s the Old Vic and we are watching the hot hot ticket, Sophocles’ Electra with Kristan Scott Thomas. She is taking time off from her puma roles in French movies to make us weep blood for the royal family of Argos. The queen and her lover have killed Agamemnon. Not least because he in turn had sacrificed his daughter. Electra weeps for her father and with her brother plots revenge. Which happens. Its as bloody and bitchy as Eastenders and now I know where Shakespeare got all his ideas from. Or do all royal families behave like this ? Are Anne and Charles about to kill the Queen? Oh God I hope not.
Anyway women and grief and how it clings to them longer has been top of my mind for a day or two. Which dragged me back to Dr Johnson’s essay on Sorrow published in The Rambler Tuesday August 28 1750 .
Here he talks of grief being a natural expression of love lost. An emotion that cries against the natural world and for which there is no cure. “It is a state of mind in which our desires are fixed upon the past, without looking to the future, an incessant wish that something were otherwise that has been, a tormenting and harassing want of some enjoyment or pleasure that we have lost,and which no endeavours can possibly regain”
And only those who live “without the gentle pleasure of sympathy and confidence.. or any of the honest joys which nature annexes to the power of pleasing” can avoid grief. As he says “so much of this passion is the natural consequence of tenderness and endearment” and therefore difficult to avoid.
But how to find a cure. “the safe and general antidote against sorrow is employment.” Soldiers the good doc notes have more opportunity but no time for grieving, so they don’t. AS he concludes “Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul, which every new idea contributes in its passage to scour away. It is the putrefication of stagnant life and is remedied by exercise and motion”
So there you have it. Electra should have stopped moping around and got a job. She was after all Princess of Argos. Its Xmas they always need extra help,she could have got behind the counter. I think the always sensible Doc would have approved. Personally I think Electra was too much of a snob to work in the family shop.