Humor Magazine

Sorry, Simon, Darling but Simply Too O.T.T.

By Davidduff

I faced a quandry last Saturday night because it was the second tranche of the Aussie thriller I watched the week before but on BB2 there was Simon Scharma giving a talk on Rembrandt's late paintings.  I think I told you that I am booked in to see the current exhibition at the National Gallery, and also, that a previous experience of seeing his late self-portraits made a huge and lasting impression on me.  Well, I wasn't terribly taken with the Aussie thriller anyway, so Simon and Rembrandt it was.  It was interesting and I did learn several things but, alas, Simon in his frenetic enthusiasm went way 'over the top'.

Even so, I am eager to see this exhibition.  Someone described Rembrandt as 'the Shakespeare of painting'.  What I think  they meant was, that in exactly the same way WS conjured up characters whose depth and internal contradictions made them utterly real, so to, Rembrandt showed you the man behind the portrait, and nowhere did he it do it better than in his own self-portraits:

Sorry, Simon, darling but simply too O.T.T.
Sorry, Simon, darling but simply too O.T.T.
Sorry, Simon, darling but simply too O.T.T.


There is a 'Falstaff' almost in the flesh!  Rembrandt was not 'a good man' and somehow in these paintings you can see him, or feel him, reflecting on that bitter knowledge now that the end of his life approaches.  Everytime I look at them I am instantly reminded of perhaps the most emotional line of Shakespeare I ever delivered.  It was in Act II, scene iv, of Henry IV part II.  I was playing Falstaff and this was another tavern scene with Doll Tearsheet sitting on my lap teasing and joshing about what a rapscallion I am, and I am replying in a similarly jocular fashion when this deceptively simple line crops up:

I am old, I am old.

I asked myself, why did WS repeat that phrase, surely once was enough.  Then I realised it was because both halves were totally different in their depth of feeling.  The first "I am old" is shouted out as part of the badinage with Doll, but then, after a pause, the words sink in through his sack-soaked brain, 'yes, it's true, I really am  old', so the second phrase is loaded, redolent with self-knowledge, filled with the grim truth that nothing is the way it once was and the end is near.

Now look at those self-portraits, that aged and ravaged face, and you will see what both Shakespeare and Rembrandt saw.


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