Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Living Hamlet

My sweet, auburn-haired, four-year-old niece, Emma Catherine Grace Thompson, was sexually abused and beaten to death two summers ago. You probably read about this tragic story in the Houston Chronicle or saw a report about it on one of the local television news networks at the time of its occurrence and again this past summer when Emma’s mother, Abigail Young, was tried and convicted of reckless and serious bodily injury to a child by omission. A jury found her boyfriend, Lucas Coe, guilty of super aggravated sexual assault of a child just last week. Needless to say, it has been a cathartic and emotionally draining experience for my whole family. We found precious little comfort in the convictions of the perpetrators of this heinous crime; it was truly a pyrrhic victory at best, for what could gratify the heart other than the return of that adorable child in the flesh? And for that, we must impatiently wait until the Day of Judgment.
For the most part, I have successfully contained the seething rage lurking in the dark corridors of my heart, but Shakespeare summoned it forth these last few weeks when I revisited Hamlet with my AP English IV class at St. Thomas. The bard’s tale of the brooding, philosophical hero hell bent on revenge profoundly moved me, stirring something long dormant in one of the subterranean rooms of my soul. I can truly say with a greater degree of certainty than ever before that I not only understand Hamlet’s maniacal desire for vengeance, but I absolutely empathize with him. I observed firsthand the deleterious effects that a calm, collected, and unyielding rage can wreak upon the human psyche. Frankly, it’s enough to terrorize the soul because it is to stare into the abyss. Those famous soliloquies were no longer merely poetical speeches but ineffable ponderings of a kindred soul whose heart and mind were so similar to my own. There was a very real temptation among many of the men of my family to act upon our baser instincts for revenge, like Hamlet, rather than letting the justice system mete out the appropriate punishment for those ignominious offenders.