Perspective #73: “Methinks thou protest too much.” I’ll explain.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there’s a play within the play. In the play-within-the-play, Queen Gertrude is asked what she thinks of said play. She retorts with a harrumph “methinks the queen (in the play) ‘protests too much.'”

If I remember correctly, having read this play back in high school, this scene is what originally introduced me to the concept of “irony.“ Irony because the “real” queen complained and overreacted all the time. For her to criticize the character’s foibles in that way was the exact definition of irony (and hypocrisy). 

(If you haven’t read Hamlet, read it here.)

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD), a stoic and admired critical thinker in his own right said, “What fault of mine most closely resembles the one I’m about to criticize in another?”

I love that. That quote resonated with me once I actually took the time to really lean in to hear what it was saying. 

I heard it in the form of a thump on the forehead, as a matter of fact:

How dare I rebuke the splinter in your eye when I have an obnoxiously huge log protruding out of my own eye (paraphrasing Matthew 7:3-5). And, more practically, how can I admonish you for speaking curtly, driving erratically, being slow to action, leaving a mess, etc, when I have a tendency to do the exact same things. 

For me, I sure don’t want to be perceived as “ironic” or, more aptly put, a hypocrite. 

Since I am already predisposed to those sad character flaws anyway (thanks a lot, Adam), I sure don’t want to add to them, especially if it’s within my control and volition to do so.

I hope my friends, family and even casual acquaintances wouldn’t “thinks” I protest too much. I hope they’d instead attribute a separate Shakespearean trope to me “with mirth and laughter, old wrinkles came.” 

Personally, methinks that sounds delightful.

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