Did Shakespeare See Himself as a Plant?

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet there is a scene where Hamlet lectures a group of actors who are about to perform for his father. In his little pep-talk he mentions they are to “hold a mirror up to nature” – a statement that has always stuck with me as an artist.

I don’t think Hamlet expected his actors to literally go on stage and place a full length mirror by the prop flowers down stage left. Actors don’t think that literally anyway.

I know the ‘nature’ Shakespeare is referring to here is ‘our nature’ – human nature, the inner workings of what’s going on inside of us. But I’m a fan of homophones and love that the word nature is used in this idea.

Because it works both ways.

If you’re stuck, if your human nature is too much to reflect on, if you want to feel fresh – take a moment to hold a mirror up to nature. That’s right, the great outdoors.

Stop trying to explore the murky waters of your subconscious for a moment, take a break from translating your anxiety into an abstract painting – find your nearest plant and observe, absorb, and reflect.

You’ll get lost in drawing the different textures of bark. You’ll discover new ways to describe the smell of honeysuckles. You will find flow because it’s hard to overthink something in front of you that just simply exists. In the moment there will be no hang ups – your only job is to hold a mirror up to nature.

Good pep-talk everyone. Now go out there and break a leg.

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