Poetic Thoughts re Intense Emotion Running Amok

In Hamlet, Laertes knows that his daughter is “palling around” with that wastrel Hamlet and cautions her, knowing something himself about masculine rapacity:

Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister,
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
Out of the shot and danger of desire.

Laertes did not want his daughter to give into emotions, but to “stand in the rear” like he did and keep her distance. For, he feared that letting go of that detachment would lead to overwhelming emotion and take her totally out of control, just as he feared it would do to him. Laertes was speaking of an “observing ego” which he knew monitors our impulses and keeps them from running amok.

For, Shakespeare knew that “feelings know no discretion but their own.” (W. H. Auden) When feelings predominate…and begin to tyrannize…they cannot submit to “monitoring” and insist on fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Adrienne Rich wrote of this immersion in emotion when she said, “when we enter touch, we enter touch completely.” And e e cummings agreed with Rich, noting that, “since feeling comes first, he who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.”

I suggest some balance is needed. (Yes, my “observing ego” is doing its magic today!) We need intense emotion, we need to be “carried away” with passion, but the “balancer” must not be discarded. When this “balancer” or “observing ego” is discarded, or lost due to neurological impairment, Shakespeare might note of us, “The expedition of his violent love outruns the pauser reason.” Or, to put it in my words, “expression of his passionate intensity outruns the pauser reason.”



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