What’s Hecuba to him . . . that he should weep for her?

Parker, Janet (2011). What’s Hecuba to him . . . that he should weep for her? In: Parker, Janet and Mathews, Timothy eds. Tradition, Translation, Trauma The Classic and the Modern. Classical Presences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 245–262.

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Abstract

‘What’s Hecuba to him?’, asks a wondering Hamlet seeing the Player cry ‘real tears’ at the plight of this long-dead queen.
Ay, that’s the question, or several questions: How does this tragic queen affect over time, culture, and language? Why does he (the actor, the rememberer, the witness) weep? Should he (the Player) weep? Or, using Brecht’s terms, is that ‘barbaric’ because the pathos should be bounded rather than being made ‘portable’?
Perhaps this chapter is suggesting that pathos in some way—
through sympathy or empathy, through feeling the dentist’s drill or through crying in common for one’s own ills—communicates and joins role and audience into a commonality. And that that is why there is no closure, for Electra or audience. That trauma recurs because the violence from the past and from off-stage, because the pain,is not dealt with; it is expressed but not incorporated and instead threatens to escape the stage.

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