“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah, fie! Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Currently, I have the privilege of working on a production of HAMLET at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN, while The WordPlayers is in rehearsal for THE SECRET GARDEN in Knoxville. As you can see from the quotes above, both writers use the metaphor of the world as a garden. However, the main characters in each story adopt opposite attitudes and take different actions within their garden-worlds.
Due to the excesses of ambition, power, and lust which he observes around him, Hamlet views the world as a hopelessly overgrown garden, never to be redeemed. He is wounded deeply by the death of his father, which he learns was the result of murder, and feels betrayed by the “o’er-hasty” marriage of his mother to his uncle. Urged on to revenge by his father’s ghost, which Hamlet fears might be the Devil, he wades deeper into the darkness of his metaphorical garden. Despite acknowledging that “There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends” and that “The readiness is all,” Hamlet cannot avoid the devastating destruction that comes as a result of his seeking justice.
Despite the apparent death of the secret garden brought about by neglect, Mary Lennox learns that proper care and nurturing can bring life back to its barrenness. By the same token, she learns that despite anger, reclusiveness, and bitterness, nurturing with love and forgiveness can bring vitality back to apparently lifeless relationships. With proper attention, even a bed-ridden, rude 10-year-old boy can blossom into one “with his head up in the air and his eyes full of laughter [walking] as strongly and steadily as any boy in Yorkshire.”
“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
– Genesis 2:8 (KJV)
My attitudes about the garden matter. My actions in the garden have consequences.
– Terry Weber