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Twentieth of January 2017

"Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia."

"There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad."

Nineteen Eighty-four, by George Orwell

Chapter 9

Winston was gelatinous with fatigue. Gelatinous was the right word. It had come into his head spontaneously. His body seemed to have not only the weakness of a jelly, but its translucency. He felt that if he held up his hand he would be able to see the light through it. All the blood and lymph had been drained out of him by an enormous debauch of work, leaving only a frail structure of nerves, bones, and skin. All sensations seemed to be magnified. His overalls fretted his shoulders, the pavement tickled his feet, even the opening and closing of a hand was an effort that made his joints creak.

He had worked more than ninety hours in five days. So had everyone else in the Ministry. Now it was all over, and he had literally nothing to do, no Party work of any description, until tomorrow morning. He could spend six hours in the hiding-place and another nine in his own bed. Slowly, in mild afternoon sunshine, he walked up a dingy street in the direction of Mr Charrington’s shop, keeping one eye open for the patrols, but irrationally convinced that this afternoon there was no danger of anyone interfering with him. The heavy brief-case that he was carrying bumped against his knee at each step, sending a tingling sensation up and down the skin of his leg. Inside it was the book, which he had now had in his possession for six days and had not yet opened, nor even looked at.

On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy. Winston was taking part in a demonstration in one of the central London squares at the moment when it happened. It was night, and the white faces and the scarlet banners were luridly floodlit. The square was packed with several thousand people, including a block of about a thousand schoolchildren in the uniform of the Spies. On a scarlet-draped platform an orator of the Inner Party, a small lean man with disproportionately long arms and a large bald skull over which a few lank locks straggled, was haranguing the crowd. A little Rumpelstiltskin figure, contorted with hatred, he gripped the neck of the microphone with one hand while the other, enormous at the end of a bony arm, clawed the air menacingly above his head. His voice, made metallic by the amplifiers, boomed forth an endless catalogue of atrocities, massacres, deportations, lootings, rapings, torture of prisoners, bombing of civilians, lying propaganda, unjust aggressions, broken treaties. It was almost impossible to listen to him without being first convinced and then maddened. At every few moments the fury of the crowd boiled over and the voice of the speaker was drowned by a wild beast-like roaring that rose uncontrollably from thousands of throats. The most savage yells of all came from the schoolchildren. The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried on to the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker’s hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein had been at work! There was a riotous interlude while posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys. But within two or three minutes it was all over. The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.

The thing that impressed Winston in looking back was that the speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in midsentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax. But at the moment he had other things to preoccupy him. It was during the moment of disorder while the posters were being torn down that a man whose face he did not see had tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, I think you’ve dropped your brief-case.’ He took the brief-case abstractedly, without speaking. He knew that it would be days before he had an opportunity to look inside it. The instant that the demonstration was over he went straight to the Ministry of Truth, though the time was now nearly twenty-three hours. The entire staff of the Ministry had done likewise. The orders already issuing from the telescreen, recalling them to their posts, were hardly necessary.

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs — all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere. The work was overwhelming, all the more so because the processes that it involved could not be called by their true names. Everyone in the Records Department worked eighteen hours in the twenty-four, with two three-hour snatches of sleep. Mattresses were brought up from the cellars and pitched all over the corridors: meals consisted of sandwiches and Victory Coffee wheeled round on trolleys by attendants from the canteen. Each time that Winston broke off for one of his spells of sleep he tried to leave his desk clear of work, and each time that he crawled back sticky-eyed and aching, it was to find that another shower of paper cylinders had covered the desk like a snowdrift, half-burying the speakwrite and overflowing on to the floor, so that the first job was always to stack them into a neat enough pile to give him room to work. What was worst of all was that the work was by no means purely mechanical. Often it was enough merely to substitute one name for another, but any detailed report of events demanded care and imagination. Even the geographical knowledge that one needed in transferring the war from one part of the world to another was considerable.

By the third day his eyes ached unbearably and his spectacles needed wiping every few minutes. It was like struggling with some crushing physical task, something which one had the right to refuse and which one was nevertheless neurotically anxious to accomplish. In so far as he had time to remember it, he was not troubled by the fact that every word he murmured into the speakwrite, every stroke of his ink-pencil, was a deliberate lie. He was as anxious as anyone else in the Department that the forgery should be perfect. On the morning of the sixth day the dribble of cylinders slowed down. For as much as half an hour nothing came out of the tube; then one more cylinder, then nothing. Everywhere at about the same time the work was easing off. A deep and as it were secret sigh went through the Department. A mighty deed, which could never be mentioned, had been achieved. It was now impossible for any human being to prove by documentary evidence that the war with Eurasia had ever happened. At twelve hundred it was unexpectedly announced that all workers in the Ministry were free till tomorrow morning. Winston, still carrying the brief-case containing the book, which had remained between his feet while he worked and under his body while he slept, went home, shaved himself, and almost fell asleep in his bath, although the water was barely more than tepid.

With a sort of voluptuous creaking in his joints he climbed the stair above Mr Charrington’s shop. He was tired, but not sleepy any longer. He opened the window, lit the dirty little oilstove and put on a pan of water for coffee. Julia would arrive presently: meanwhile there was the book. He sat down in the sluttish armchair and undid the straps of the brief-case.

A heavy black volume, amateurishly bound, with no name or title on the cover. The print also looked slightly irregular. The pages were worn at the edges, and fell apart, easily, as though the book had passed through many hands. The inscription on the title-page ran:

Emmanuel Goldstein

Winston began reading:

Chapter I
Ignorance is Strength

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other.

The aims of these groups are entirely irreconcilable.

Winston stopped reading, chiefly in order to appreciate the fact that he was reading, in comfort and safety. He was alone: no telescreen, no ear at the keyhole, no nervous impulse to glance over his shoulder or cover the page with his hand. The sweet summer air played against his cheek. From somewhere far away there floated the faint shouts of children: in the room itself there was no sound except the insect voice of the clock. He settled deeper into the arm-chair and put his feet up on the fender. It was bliss, it was eternity. Suddenly, as one sometimes does with a book of which one knows that one will ultimately read and re-read every word, he opened it at a different place and found himself at Chapter III. He went on reading:

Chapter III
War is Peace

The splitting up of the world into three great super-states was an event which could be and indeed was foreseen before the middle of the twentieth century. With the absorption of Europe by Russia and of the British Empire by the United States, two of the three existing powers, Eurasia and Oceania, were already effectively in being. The third, Eastasia, only emerged as a distinct unit after another decade of confused fighting. The frontiers between the three super-states are in some places arbitrary, and in others they fluctuate according to the fortunes of war, but in general they follow geographical lines. Eurasia comprises the whole of the northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Oceania comprises the Americas, the Atlantic islands including the British Isles, Australasia, and the southern portion of Africa. Eastasia, smaller than the others and with a less definite western frontier, comprises China and the countries to the south of it, the Japanese islands and a large but fluctuating portion of Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet.

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is a warfare of limited aims between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no material cause for fighting and are not divided by any genuine ideological difference. This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, meritorious. But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. In the centres of civilization war means no more than a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths. War has in fact changed its character. More exactly, the reasons for which war is waged have changed in their order of importance. Motives which were already present to some small extent in the great wars of the early twentieth century have now become dominant and are consciously recognized and acted upon.

To understand the nature of the present war — for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war — one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive. None of the three super-states could be definitively conquered even by the other two in combination. They are too evenly matched, and their natural defences are too formidable. Eurasia is protected by its vast land spaces, Oceania by the width of the Atlantic and the Pacific, Eastasia by the fecundity and industriousness of its inhabitants. Secondly, there is no longer, in a material sense, anything to fight about. With the establishment of self-contained economies, in which production and consumption are geared to one another, the scramble for markets which was a main cause of previous wars has come to an end, while the competition for raw materials is no longer a matter of life and death. In any case each of the three super-states is so vast that it can obtain almost all the materials that it needs within its own boundaries. In so far as the war has a direct economic purpose, it is a war for labour power. Between the frontiers of the super-states, and not permanently in the possession of any of them, there lies a rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong, containing within it about a fifth of the population of the earth. It is for the possession of these thickly-populated regions, and of the northern ice-cap, that the three powers are constantly struggling. In practice no one power ever controls the whole of the disputed area. Portions of it are constantly changing hands, and it is the chance of seizing this or that fragment by a sudden stroke of treachery that dictates the endless changes of alignment.

All of the disputed territories contain valuable minerals, and some of them yield important vegetable products such as rubber which in colder climates it is necessary to synthesize by comparatively expensive methods. But above all they contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour. Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the countries of the Middle East, or Southern India, or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of scores or hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hard-working coolies. The inhabitants of these areas, reduced more or less openly to the status of slaves, pass continually from conqueror to conqueror, and are expended like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control more labour power, to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, and so on indefinitely. It should be noted that the fighting never really moves beyond the edges of the disputed areas. The frontiers of Eurasia flow back and forth between the basin of the Congo and the northern shore of the Mediterranean; the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific are constantly being captured and recaptured by Oceania or by Eastasia; in Mongolia the dividing line between Eurasia and Eastasia is never stable; round the Pole all three powers lay claim to enormous territories which in fact are largely uninhabited and unexplored: but the balance of power always remains roughly even, and the territory which forms the heartland of each super-state always remains inviolate. Moreover, the labour of the exploited peoples round the Equator is not really necessary to the world’s economy. They add nothing to the wealth of the world, since whatever they produce is used for purposes of war, and the object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war. By their labour the slave populations allow the tempo of continuous warfare to be speeded up. But if they did not exist, the structure of world society, and the process by which it maintains itself, would not be essentially different.

The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of DOUBLETHINK, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work. The world of today is a bare, hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient — a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete — was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society. As a whole the world is more primitive today than it was fifty years ago. Certain backward areas have advanced, and various devices, always in some way connected with warfare and police espionage, have been developed, but experiment and invention have largely stopped, and the ravages of the atomic war of the nineteen-fifties have never been fully repaired. Nevertheless the dangers inherent in the machine are still there. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process — by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute — the machine did raise the living standards of the average human being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.

But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which WEALTH, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while POWER remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. To return to the agricultural past, as some thinkers about the beginning of the twentieth century dreamed of doing, was not a practicable solution. It conflicted with the tendency towards mechanization which had become quasi-instinctive throughout almost the whole world, and moreover, any country which remained industrially backward was helpless in a military sense and was bound to be dominated, directly or indirectly, by its more advanced rivals.

Nor was it a satisfactory solution to keep the masses in poverty by restricting the output of goods. This happened to a great extent during the final phase of capitalism, roughly between 1920 and 1940. The economy of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another. By the standards of the early twentieth century, even a member of the Inner Party lives an austere, laborious kind of life. Nevertheless, the few luxuries that he does enjoy his large, well-appointed flat, the better texture of his clothes, the better quality of his food and drink and tobacco, his two or three servants, his private motor-car or helicopter — set him in a different world from a member of the Outer Party, and the members of the Outer Party have a similar advantage in comparison with the submerged masses whom we call ‘the proles’. The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.

War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist. The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of DOUBLETHINK. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world.

All members of the Inner Party believe in this coming conquest as an article of faith. It is to be achieved either by gradually acquiring more and more territory and so building up an overwhelming preponderance of power, or by the discovery of some new and unanswerable weapon. The search for new weapons continues unceasingly, and is one of the very few remaining activities in which the inventive or speculative type of mind can find any outlet. In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for ‘Science’. The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc. And even technological progress only happens when its products can in some way be used for the diminution of human liberty. In all the useful arts the world is either standing still or going backwards. The fields are cultivated with horse-ploughs while books are written by machinery. But in matters of vital importance — meaning, in effect, war and police espionage — the empirical approach is still encouraged, or at least tolerated. The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought. There are therefore two great problems which the Party is concerned to solve. One is how to discover, against his will, what another human being is thinking, and the other is how to kill several hundred million people in a few seconds without giving warning beforehand. In so far as scientific research still continues, this is its subject matter. The scientist of today is either a mixture of psychologist and inquisitor, studying with real ordinary minuteness the meaning of facial expressions, gestures, and tones of voice, and testing the truth-producing effects of drugs, shock therapy, hypnosis, and physical torture; or he is chemist, physicist, or biologist concerned only with such branches of his special subject as are relevant to the taking of life. In the vast laboratories of the Ministry of Peace, and in the experimental stations hidden in the Brazilian forests, or in the Australian desert, or on lost islands of the Antarctic, the teams of experts are indefatigably at work. Some are concerned simply with planning the logistics of future wars; others devise larger and larger rocket bombs, more and more powerful explosives, and more and more impenetrable armour-plating; others search for new and deadlier gases, or for soluble poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents, or for breeds of disease germs immunized against all possible antibodies; others strive to produce a vehicle that shall bore its way under the soil like a submarine under the water, or an aeroplane as independent of its base as a sailing-ship; others explore even remoter possibilities such as focusing the sun’s rays through lenses suspended thousands of kilometres away in space, or producing artificial earthquakes and tidal waves by tapping the heat at the earth’s centre.

But none of these projects ever comes anywhere near realization, and none of the three super-states ever gains a significant lead on the others. What is more remarkable is that all three powers already possess, in the atomic bomb, a weapon far more powerful than any that their present researches are likely to discover. Although the Party, according to its habit, claims the invention for itself, atomic bombs first appeared as early as the nineteen-forties, and were first used on a large scale about ten years later. At that time some hundreds of bombs were dropped on industrial centres, chiefly in European Russia, Western Europe, and North America. The effect was to convince the ruling groups of all countries that a few more atomic bombs would mean the end of organized society, and hence of their own power. Thereafter, although no formal agreement was ever made or hinted at, no more bombs were dropped. All three powers merely continue to produce atomic bombs and store them up against the decisive opportunity which they all believe will come sooner or later. And meanwhile the art of war has remained almost stationary for thirty or forty years. Helicopters are more used than they were formerly, bombing planes have been largely superseded by self-propelled projectiles, and the fragile movable battleship has given way to the almost unsinkable Floating Fortress; but otherwise there has been little development. The tank, the submarine, the torpedo, the machine gun, even the rifle and the hand grenade are still in use. And in spite of the endless slaughters reported in the Press and on the telescreens, the desperate battles of earlier wars, in which hundreds of thousands or even millions of men were often killed in a few weeks, have never been repeated.

None of the three super-states ever attempts any manoeuvre which involves the risk of serious defeat. When any large operation is undertaken, it is usually a surprise attack against an ally. The strategy that all three powers are following, or pretend to themselves that they are following, is the same. The plan is, by a combination of fighting, bargaining, and well-timed strokes of treachery, to acquire a ring of bases completely encircling one or other of the rival states, and then to sign a pact of friendship with that rival and remain on peaceful terms for so many years as to lull suspicion to sleep. During this time rockets loaded with atomic bombs can be assembled at all the strategic spots; finally they will all be fired simultaneously, with effects so devastating as to make retaliation impossible. It will then be time to sign a pact of friendship with the remaining world-power, in preparation for another attack. This scheme, it is hardly necessary to say, is a mere daydream, impossible of realization. Moreover, no fighting ever occurs except in the disputed areas round the Equator and the Pole: no invasion of enemy territory is ever undertaken. This explains the fact that in some places the frontiers between the super-states are arbitrary. Eurasia, for example, could easily conquer the British Isles, which are geographically part of Europe, or on the other hand it would be possible for Oceania to push its frontiers to the Rhine or even to the Vistula. But this would violate the principle, followed on all sides though never formulated, of cultural integrity. If Oceania were to conquer the areas that used once to be known as France and Germany, it would be necessary either to exterminate the inhabitants, a task of great physical difficulty, or to assimilate a population of about a hundred million people, who, so far as technical development goes, are roughly on the Oceanic level. The problem is the same for all three super-states. It is absolutely necessary to their structure that there should be no contact with foreigners, except, to a limited extent, with war prisoners and coloured slaves. Even the official ally of the moment is always regarded with the darkest suspicion. War prisoners apart, the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, and he is forbidden the knowledge of foreign languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate. It is therefore realized on all sides that however often Persia, or Egypt, or Java, or Ceylon may change hands, the main frontiers must never be crossed by anything except bombs.

Under this lies a fact never mentioned aloud, but tacitly understood and acted upon: namely, that the conditions of life in all three super-states are very much the same. In Oceania the prevailing philosophy is called Ingsoc, in Eurasia it is called Neo-Bolshevism, and in Eastasia it is called by a Chinese name usually translated as Death-Worship, but perhaps better rendered as Obliteration of the Self. The citizen of Oceania is not allowed to know anything of the tenets of the other two philosophies, but he is taught to execrate them as barbarous outrages upon morality and common sense. Actually the three philosophies are barely distinguishable, and the social systems which they support are not distinguishable at all. Everywhere there is the same pyramidal structure, the same worship of semi-divine leader, the same economy existing by and for continuous warfare. It follows that the three super-states not only cannot conquer one another, but would gain no advantage by doing so. On the contrary, so long as they remain in conflict they prop one another up, like three sheaves of corn. And, as usual, the ruling groups of all three powers are simultaneously aware and unaware of what they are doing. Their lives are dedicated to world conquest, but they also know that it is necessary that the war should continue everlastingly and without victory. Meanwhile the fact that there IS no danger of conquest makes possible the denial of reality which is the special feature of Ingsoc and its rival systems of thought. Here it is necessary to repeat what has been said earlier, that by becoming continuous war has fundamentally changed its character.

In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat. In the past, also, war was one of the main instruments by which human societies were kept in touch with physical reality. All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions. Moreover, to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past, which meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the past. Newspapers and history books were, of course, always coloured and biased, but falsification of the kind that is practised today would have been impossible. War was a sure safeguard of sanity, and so far as the ruling classes were concerned it was probably the most important of all safeguards. While wars could be won or lost, no ruling class could be completely irresponsible.

But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. When war is continuous there is no such thing as military necessity. Technical progress can cease and the most palpable facts can be denied or disregarded. As we have seen, researches that could be called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but they are essentially a kind of daydreaming, and their failure to show results is not important. Efficiency, even military efficiency, is no longer needed. Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police. Since each of the three super-states is unconquerable, each is in effect a separate universe within which almost any perversion of thought can be safely practised. Reality only exerts its pressure through the needs of everyday life — the need to eat and drink, to get shelter and clothing, to avoid swallowing poison or stepping out of top-storey windows, and the like. Between life and death, and between physical pleasure and physical pain, there is still a distinction, but that is all. Cut off from contact with the outer world, and with the past, the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is down. The rulers of such a state are absolute, as the Pharaohs or the Caesars could not be. They are obliged to prevent their followers from starving to death in numbers large enough to be inconvenient, and they are obliged to remain at the same low level of military technique as their rivals; but once that minimum is achieved, they can twist reality into whatever shape they choose.

The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. The peculiar pressure that it exerted on human beings between the Neolithic Age and the early twentieth century has disappeared and been replaced by something quite different. The effect would be much the same if the three super-states, instead of fighting one another, should agree to live in perpetual peace, each inviolate within its own boundaries. For in that case each would still be a self-contained universe, freed for ever from the sobering influence of external danger. A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This — although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense — is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE.

Winston stopped reading for a moment. Somewhere in remote distance a rocket bomb thundered. The blissful feeling of being alone with the forbidden book, in a room with no telescreen, had not worn off. Solitude and safety were physical sensations, mixed up somehow with the tiredness of his body, the softness of the chair, the touch of the faint breeze from the window that played upon his cheek. The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already. He had just turned back to Chapter I when he heard Julia’s footstep on the stair and started out of his chair to meet her. She dumped her brown tool-bag on the floor and flung herself into his arms. It was more than a week since they had seen one another.

‘I’ve got THE BOOK,’ he said as they disentangled themselves.

‘Oh, you’ve got it? Good,’ she said without much interest, and almost immediately knelt down beside the oil stove to make the coffee.

They did not return to the subject until they had been in bed for half an hour. The evening was just cool enough to make it worth while to pull up the counterpane. From below came the familiar sound of singing and the scrape of boots on the flagstones. The brawny red-armed woman whom Winston had seen there on his first visit was almost a fixture in the yard. There seemed to be no hour of daylight when she was not marching to and fro between the washtub and the line, alternately gagging herself with clothes pegs and breaking forth into lusty song. Julia had settled down on her side and seemed to be already on the point of falling asleep. He reached out for the book, which was lying on the floor, and sat up against the bedhead.

‘We must read it,’ he said. ‘You too. All members of the Brotherhood have to read it.’

‘You read it,’ she said with her eyes shut. ‘Read it aloud. That’s the best way. Then you can explain it to me as you go.’

The clock’s hands said six, meaning eighteen. They had three or four hours ahead of them. He propped the book against his knees and began reading:

Chapter I
Ignorance is Strength

Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other

‘Julia, are you awake?’ said Winston.

‘Yes, my love, I’m listening. Go on. It’s marvellous.’

He continued reading:

The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the High is to remain where they are. The aim of the Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low, when they have an aim — for it is an abiding characteristic of the Low that they are too much crushed by drudgery to be more than intermittently conscious of anything outside their daily lives — is to abolish all distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal. Thus throughout history a struggle which is the same in its main outlines recurs over and over again. For long periods the High seem to be securely in power, but sooner or later there always comes a moment when they lose either their belief in themselves or their capacity to govern efficiently, or both. They are then overthrown by the Middle, who enlist the Low on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. As soon as they have reached their objective, the Middle thrust the Low back into their old position of servitude, and themselves become the High. Presently a new Middle group splits off from one of the other groups, or from both of them, and the struggle begins over again. Of the three groups, only the Low are never even temporarily successful in achieving their aims. It would be an exaggeration to say that throughout history there has been no progress of a material kind. Even today, in a period of decline, the average human being is physically better off than he was a few centuries ago. But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimetre nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.

By the late nineteenth century the recurrence of this pattern had become obvious to many observers. There then rose schools of thinkers who interpreted history as a cyclical process and claimed to show that inequality was the unalterable law of human life. This doctrine, of course, had always had its adherents, but in the manner in which it was now put forward there was a significant change. In the past the need for a hierarchical form of society had been the doctrine specifically of the High. It had been preached by kings and aristocrats and by the priests, lawyers, and the like who were parasitical upon them, and it had generally been softened by promises of compensation in an imaginary world beyond the grave. The Middle, so long as it was struggling for power, had always made use of such terms as freedom, justice, and fraternity. Now, however, the concept of human brotherhood began to be assailed by people who were not yet in positions of command, but merely hoped to be so before long. In the past the Middle had made revolutions under the banner of equality, and then had established a fresh tyranny as soon as the old one was overthrown. The new Middle groups in effect proclaimed their tyranny beforehand. Socialism, a theory which appeared in the early nineteenth century and was the last link in a chain of thought stretching back to the slave rebellions of antiquity, was still deeply infected by the Utopianism of past ages. But in each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned. The new movements which appeared in the middle years of the century, Ingsoc in Oceania, Neo-Bolshevism in Eurasia, Death-Worship, as it is commonly called, in Eastasia, had the conscious aim of perpetuating UNfreedom and INequality. These new movements, of course, grew out of the old ones and tended to keep their names and pay lip-service to their ideology. But the purpose of all of them was to arrest progress and freeze history at a chosen moment. The familiar pendulum swing was to happen once more, and then stop. As usual, the High were to be turned out by the Middle, who would then become the High; but this time, by conscious strategy, the High would be able to maintain their position permanently.

The new doctrines arose partly because of the accumulation of historical knowledge, and the growth of the historical sense, which had hardly existed before the nineteenth century. The cyclical movement of history was now intelligible, or appeared to be so; and if it was intelligible, then it was alterable. But the principal, underlying cause was that, as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, human equality had become technically possible. It was still true that men were not equal in their native talents and that functions had to be specialized in ways that favoured some individuals against others; but there was no longer any real need for class distinctions or for large differences of wealth. In earlier ages, class distinctions had been not only inevitable but desirable. Inequality was the price of civilization. With the development of machine production, however, the case was altered. Even if it was still necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, it was no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels. Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted. In more primitive ages, when a just and peaceful society was in fact not possible, it had been fairly easy to believe it. The idea of an earthly paradise in which men should live together in a state of brotherhood, without laws and without brute labour, had haunted the human imagination for thousands of years. And this vision had had a certain hold even on the groups who actually profited by each historical change. The heirs of the French, English, and American revolutions had partly believed in their own phrases about the rights of man, freedom of speech, equality before the law, and the like, and have even allowed their conduct to be influenced by them to some extent. But by the fourth decade of the twentieth century all the main currents of political thought were authoritarian. The earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly the moment when it became realizable. Every new political theory, by whatever name it called itself, led back to hierarchy and regimentation. And in the general hardening of outlook that set in round about 1930, practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years — imprisonment without trial, the use of war prisoners as slaves, public executions, torture to extract confessions, the use of hostages, and the deportation of whole populations — not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.

It was only after a decade of national wars, civil wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions in all parts of the world that Ingsoc and its rivals emerged as fully worked-out political theories. But they had been foreshadowed by the various systems, generally called totalitarian, which had appeared earlier in the century, and the main outlines of the world which would emerge from the prevailing chaos had long been obvious. What kind of people would control this world had been equally obvious. The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians. These people, whose origins lay in the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class, had been shaped and brought together by the barren world of monopoly industry and centralized government. As compared with their opposite numbers in past ages, they were less avaricious, less tempted by luxury, hungrier for pure power, and, above all, more conscious of what they were doing and more intent on crushing opposition. This last difference was cardinal. By comparison with that existing today, all the tyrannies of the past were half-hearted and inefficient. The ruling groups were always infected to some extent by liberal ideas, and were content to leave loose ends everywhere, to regard only the overt act and to be uninterested in what their subjects were thinking. Even the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was tolerant by modern standards. Part of the reason for this was that in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance. The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end. Every citizen, or at least every citizen important enough to be worth watching, could be kept for twenty-four hours a day under the eyes of the police and in the sound of official propaganda, with all other channels of communication closed. The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects, now existed for the first time.

After the revolutionary period of the fifties and sixties, society regrouped itself, as always, into High, Middle, and Low. But the new High group, unlike all its forerunners, did not act upon instinct but knew what was needed to safeguard its position. It had long been realized that the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism. Wealth and privilege are most easily defended when they are possessed jointly. The so-called ‘abolition of private property’ which took place in the middle years of the century meant, in effect, the concentration of property in far fewer hands than before: but with this difference, that the new owners were a group instead of a mass of individuals. Individually, no member of the Party owns anything, except petty personal belongings. Collectively, the Party owns everything in Oceania, because it controls everything, and disposes of the products as it thinks fit. In the years following the Revolution it was able to step into this commanding position almost unopposed, because the whole process was represented as an act of collectivization. It had always been assumed that if the capitalist class were expropriated, Socialism must follow: and unquestionably the capitalists had been expropriated. Factories, mines, land, houses, transport — everything had been taken away from them: and since these things were no longer private property, it followed that they must be public property. Ingsoc, which grew out of the earlier Socialist movement and inherited its phraseology, has in fact carried out the main item in the Socialist programme; with the result, foreseen and intended beforehand, that economic inequality has been made permanent.

But the problems of perpetuating a hierarchical society go deeper than this. There are only four ways in which a ruling group can fall from power. Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. These causes do not operate singly, and as a rule all four of them are present in some degree. A ruling class which could guard against all of them would remain in power permanently. Ultimately the determining factor is the mental attitude of the ruling class itself.

After the middle of the present century, the first danger had in reality disappeared. Each of the three powers which now divide the world is in fact unconquerable, and could only become conquerable through slow demographic changes which a government with wide powers can easily avert. The second danger, also, is only a theoretical one. The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed. The recurrent economic crises of past times were totally unnecessary and are not now permitted to happen, but other and equally large dislocations can and do happen without having political results, because there is no way in which discontent can become articulate. As for the problem of over-production, which has been latent in our society since the development of machine technique, it is solved by the device of continuous warfare (see Chapter III), which is also useful in keying up public morale to the necessary pitch. From the point of view of our present rulers, therefore, the only genuine dangers are the splitting-off of a new group of able, under-employed, power-hungry people, and the growth of liberalism and scepticism in their own ranks. The problem, that is to say, is educational. It is a problem of continuously moulding the consciousness both of the directing group and of the larger executive group that lies immediately below it. The consciousness of the masses needs only to be influenced in a negative way.

Given this background, one could infer, if one did not know it already, the general structure of Oceanic society. At the apex of the pyramid comes Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership and inspiration. Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization. Below Big Brother comes the Inner Party. Its numbers limited to six millions, or something less than 2 per cent of the population of Oceania. Below the Inner Party comes the Outer Party, which, if the Inner Party is described as the brain of the State, may be justly likened to the hands. Below that come the dumb masses whom we habitually refer to as ‘the proles’, numbering perhaps 85 per cent of the population. In the terms of our earlier classification, the proles are the Low: for the slave population of the equatorial lands who pass constantly from conqueror to conqueror, are not a permanent or necessary part of the structure.

In principle, membership of these three groups is not hereditary. The child of Inner Party parents is in theory not born into the Inner Party. Admission to either branch of the Party is by examination, taken at the age of sixteen. Nor is there any racial discrimination, or any marked domination of one province by another. Jews, Negroes, South Americans of pure Indian blood are to be found in the highest ranks of the Party, and the administrators of any area are always drawn from the inhabitants of that area. In no part of Oceania do the inhabitants have the feeling that they are a colonial population ruled from a distant capital. Oceania has no capital, and its titular head is a person whose whereabouts nobody knows. Except that English is its chief LINGUA FRANCA and Newspeak its official language, it is not centralized in any way. Its rulers are not held together by blood-ties but by adherence to a common doctrine. It is true that our society is stratified, and very rigidly stratified, on what at first sight appear to be hereditary lines. There is far less to-and-fro movement between the different groups than happened under capitalism or even in the pre-industrial age. Between the two branches of the Party there is a certain amount of interchange, but only so much as will ensure that weaklings are excluded from the Inner Party and that ambitious members of the Outer Party are made harmless by allowing them to rise. Proletarians, in practice, are not allowed to graduate into the Party. The most gifted among them, who might possibly become nuclei of discontent, are simply marked down by the Thought Police and eliminated. But this state of affairs is not necessarily permanent, nor is it a matter of principle. The Party is not a class in the old sense of the word. It does not aim at transmitting power to its own children, as such; and if there were no other way of keeping the ablest people at the top, it would be perfectly prepared to recruit an entire new generation from the ranks of the proletariat. In the crucial years, the fact that the Party was not a hereditary body did a great deal to neutralize opposition. The older kind of Socialist, who had been trained to fight against something called ‘class privilege’ assumed that what is not hereditary cannot be permanent. He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical, nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been shortlived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors. The Party is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating itself. WHO wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.

All the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of the Party and prevent the true nature of present-day society from being perceived. Physical rebellion, or any preliminary move towards rebellion, is at present not possible. From the proletarians nothing is to be feared. Left to themselves, they will continue from generation to generation and from century to century, working, breeding, and dying, not only without any impulse to rebel, but without the power of grasping that the world could be other than it is. They could only become dangerous if the advance of industrial technique made it necessary to educate them more highly; but, since military and commercial rivalry are no longer important, the level of popular education is actually declining. What opinions the masses hold, or do not hold, is looked on as a matter of indifference. They can be granted intellectual liberty because they have no intellect. In a Party member, on the other hand, not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated.

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand his actions are not regulated by law or by any clearly formulated code of behaviour. In Oceania there is no law. Thoughts and actions which, when detected, mean certain death are not formally forbidden, and the endless purges, arrests, tortures, imprisonments, and vaporizations are not inflicted as punishment for crimes which have actually been committed, but are merely the wiping-out of persons who might perhaps commit a crime at some time in the future. A Party member is required to have not only the right opinions, but the right instincts. Many of the beliefs and attitudes demanded of him are never plainly stated, and could not be stated without laying bare the contradictions inherent in Ingsoc. If he is a person naturally orthodox (in Newspeak a GOODTHINKER), he will in all circumstances know, without taking thought, what is the true belief or the desirable emotion. But in any case an elaborate mental training, undergone in childhood and grouping itself round the Newspeak words CRIMESTOP, BLACKWHITE, and DOUBLETHINK, makes him unwilling and unable to think too deeply on any subject whatever.

A Party member is expected to have no private emotions and no respites from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party. The discontents produced by his bare, unsatisfying life are deliberately turned outwards and dissipated by such devices as the Two Minutes Hate, and the speculations which might possibly induce a sceptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, CRIMESTOP. CRIMESTOP means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. CRIMESTOP, in short, means protective stupidity. But stupidity is not enough. On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as DOUBLETHINK.

The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the past, just as he must be cut off from foreign countries, because it is necessary for him to believe that he is better off than his ancestors and that the average level of material comfort is constantly rising. But by far the more important reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party. It is not merely that speeches, statistics, and records of every kind must be constantly brought up to date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. It is also that no change in doctrine or in political alignment can ever be admitted. For to change one’s mind, or even one’s policy, is a confession of weakness. If, for example, Eurasia or Eastasia (whichever it may be) is the enemy today, then that country must always have been the enemy. And if the facts say otherwise then the facts must be altered. Thus history is continuously rewritten. This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.

The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. For when it has been recreated in whatever shape is needed at the moment, then this new version IS the past, and no different past can ever have existed. This holds good even when, as often happens, the same event has to be altered out of recognition several times in the course of a year. At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from what it is now. It will be seen that the control of the past depends above all on the training of memory. To make sure that all written records agree with the orthodoxy of the moment is merely a mechanical act. But it is also necessary to REMEMBER that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to rearrange one’s memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to FORGET that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, ‘reality control’. In Newspeak it is called DOUBLETHINK, though DOUBLETHINK comprises much else as well.

DOUBLETHINK means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of DOUBLETHINK he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. DOUBLETHINK lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word DOUBLETHINK it is necessary to exercise DOUBLETHINK. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of DOUBLETHINK one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. Ultimately it is by means of DOUBLETHINK that the Party has been able — and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands of years — to arrest the course of history.

All past oligarchies have fallen from power either because they ossified or because they grew soft. Either they became stupid and arrogant, failed to adjust themselves to changing circumstances, and were overthrown; or they became liberal and cowardly, made concessions when they should have used force, and once again were overthrown. They fell, that is to say, either through consciousness or through unconsciousness. It is the achievement of the Party to have produced a system of thought in which both conditions can exist simultaneously. And upon no other intellectual basis could the dominion of the Party be made permanent. If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the Power to learn from past mistakes.

It need hardly be said that the subtlest practitioners of DOUBLETHINK are those who invented DOUBLETHINK and know that it is a vast system of mental cheating. In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion; the more intelligent, the less sane. One clear illustration of this is the fact that war hysteria increases in intensity as one rises in the social scale. Those whose attitude towards the war is most nearly rational are the subject peoples of the disputed territories. To these people the war is simply a continuous calamity which sweeps to and fro over their bodies like a tidal wave. Which side is winning is a matter of complete indifference to them. They are aware that a change of overlordship means simply that they will be doing the same work as before for new masters who treat them in the same manner as the old ones. The slightly more favoured workers whom we call ‘the proles’ are only intermittently conscious of the war. When it is necessary they can be prodded into frenzies of fear and hatred, but when left to themselves they are capable of forgetting for long periods that the war is happening. It is in the ranks of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, that the true war enthusiasm is found. World-conquest is believed in most firmly by those who know it to be impossible. This peculiar linking-together of opposites — knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism — is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society. The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in DOUBLETHINK. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted — if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently — then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

But there is one question which until this moment we have almost ignored. It is; WHY should human equality be averted? Supposing that the mechanics of the process have been rightly described, what is the motive for this huge, accurately planned effort to freeze history at a particular moment of time?

Here we reach the central secret. As we have seen. the mystique of the Party, and above all of the Inner Party, depends upon DOUBLETHINK But deeper than this lies the original motive, the never-questioned instinct that first led to the seizure of power and brought DOUBLETHINK, the Thought Police, continuous warfare, and all the other necessary paraphernalia into existence afterwards. This motive really consists . . .

Winston became aware of silence, as one becomes aware of a new sound. It seemed to him that Julia had been very still for some time past. She was lying on her side, naked from the waist upwards, with her cheek pillowed on her hand and one dark lock tumbling across her eyes. Her breast rose and fell slowly and regularly.


No answer.

‘Julia, are you awake?’

No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them.

He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood HOW; he did not understand WHY. Chapter I, like Chapter III, had not actually told him anything that he did not know, it had merely systematized the knowledge that he possessed already. But after reading it he knew better than before that he was not mad. Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. A yellow beam from the sinking sun slanted in through the window and fell across the pillow. He shut his eyes. The sun on his face and the girl’s smooth body touching his own gave him a strong, sleepy, confident feeling. He was safe, everything was all right. He fell asleep murmuring ‘Sanity is not statistical,’ with the feeling that this remark contained in it a profound wisdom.

Message from the Front Office: Looking into 2017

Political “Climate Change” – Preserving Our Democracy

Incitements to anger and instability will increase in the world. Acts of terror and violence are meant to strike fear in us and undermine our faith in a peaceful and reasonable society. They are meant to undermine those world leaders who continue to resist divisionist attacks on democracy. Divisionist attacks can be as diverse as a democracy is inclusive. Hateful speech, stoking racial tensions, restricting or eliminating the rights of women, anything that seeks to punish one or more against another based on some category. When one class or group of citizens suffers at the hands of another, there cannot be a democratic society.

We have a duty to reject leaders who, to consolidate power, seek to capitalize on this kind of cannibalization of people. Unless government leaders in countries which uphold democratic ideals remain strong, we will witness the resurgence of informants, round-ups and worse.

Our democracy depends on our freedoms. And on our ability to work with, respect and care for others, whether or not we would choose to lead the lives they choose to lead. Whether or not we look like them, or worship like them. Regardless of whom they love, how many children they do or don’t choose to bring into this world. It’s the responsibility we carry when we live in this democracy. Refuse to go quietly into a barren and beaten world.

Music is not a contest, but it's nice to see Radiohead's
2016 "A Moon Shaped Pool" get the love it deserves.

Radiohead's incredible 2016 tour was unquestionably a
highlight of the past few years, not just this year.

Sir Kenneth Branagh, born 10 December. A richer world, ever our thanks.
To celebrate his birthday, and to honor and give back, the Ken Friends raise funds annually for a donation to RADA in his parents' name.
The bursary helps provide young actors with the funds to pursue their studies.

A Thank-You from Kenneth Branagh December 2016

Dear Ken Friends,

My profound thanks once again for your exceptional generosity on the occasion of my birthday.

I'm enjoying very much the privilege of being RADA's President, and as such I'm able to see this year the results of your generosity at first hand. Your magnificent continued support of the bursary in my parents name (once again this year an extraordinary amount), is having a hugely beneficial affect- thank you.

Let me finish by saying how much your support of our Garrick season was appreciated by all involved. You made a magical time all the more so.

May I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season, and a wonderful new year, and once again, my friends, thank you.
Ken Branagh

Update December 12, 2016 ~ From the Front Office

Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise. When hydrofracturing occurs, ice shelves crack and englacial lakes (under the ice) form and increase water flow and displacement. When ice shelves fall apart, the glacial ice behind them flows more rapidly to the ocean, raising sea levels. Yes, said that twice so it would sink in.

Update December 9, 2016

The transition team for the President-elect is reaching deep into the Department of Energy (DOE) to find out how to bring back, commercialize
and export nuclear power.

One inquiry (Question 37) directly addresses whether DOE has "a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings."
Yucca Mountain is a proposed nuclear waste dump site in Nevada, shelved by the Obama administration over myriad concerns
(including transport of waste to the proposed site, and possibilities that environmental conditions and changes -- earthquakes,
groundwater contamination, thermal loading, and water infiltration due to climate change) which threaten the stability and safety of the site.

The transition team for the President-elect also wants to know which employees, scientists and analysts to target in the sell-out and sell-off of US energy assets and policy.
So, what does DOE handle?

Here are some exact actual questions directed at departments within DOE,
sourced from the DOE transition document via The Washington Post DocumentCloud.
GC refers to General Counsel, NE refers to Nuclear Energy.

30 Which programs Within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?

32 Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting US. energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?

37 Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings? GC

47 How can the DOE support existing reactors to continue Operating as part of the nation's NE infrastructure?

48 What can DOE do to help prevent premature closure of plants? NE

49 How do you recommend continuing to supporting (sic) the licensing of Small Modular Reactors? NE

50 How best can DOE optimize its Advanced Reactor (R851) activities to maximize their value proposition and work with investors to develop and commercialize advanced reactors?

Here are other questions the DOE has been ordered to answer by the President-elect’s transition team.

Democracy is going to be even harder work than we thought.

Watchlists here we come.

More From the Front Office:

Update December 7, 2016 ~ The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency has been suing it. The Attorney General of Oklahoma, proud to have "led the fight against the Clean Power Plan." His plan? In a radio interview in November 2016, he said, "There's gonna be a regulatory rollback. Washington is going to be less consequential. The greatest impediment to economic growth has been regulation. It's going to be a new day for BANKS."

DO something.

On December 4, 2016 the Army Corps of Engineers denied issuance of an easement across specified lands for the Dakota Pipeline project. There is no expectation that the project has been halted, as federal permits were previously granted. The construction has been delayed until an an environmental impact statement is created and reviewed. If passage under Lake Oahe in North Dakota and through Sioux lands is determined to be unacceptable, very likely an alternate route will be chosen. The stark reality that this project will remain green-lighted in 2017 is clear, even aside from the financial interest the President-elect has in two invested companies. The reprise the denial of the easement represents was likely engineered to encourage protesters at Standing Rock to leave, and let the political awareness simmer down. Because how soon we forget. It was also a humane decision, as well as astute move, to avert violence (and stifle coalition-buildling) in a showdown with authorities at the Monday deadline to evacuate the protest area. Without this lightning rod as a focal point, the advocates for a halt to fossil fuels will need to redouble efforts to wake up America -- a land that has elected a leader inimical to such values.

On November 4, 2016, the Paris Climate Change Agreement adopted at COP21 became effective, with 83 countries having ratified its terms. Included in those 83 countries are at least 55 parties who account for an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. What happens next is COP22, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Marrakech. Leaders should be planning to: 1) coordinate efforts in arresting climate change; 2) establish best practices; and 3) move further towards a low carbon and sustainable future, maintaining or bettering the international aim of a limit of a 1.5 degree Celsius global average rise in temperature.

Implementing these goals will require informed leadership and commitment. Building bridges between countries at various stages of development protects the health of our planet and its people. Building walls - literally, or by other means - sends us all spiraling backwards.

Stanley Donwood in France during the recording of A Moon Shaped Pool.

Sir Kenneth Branagh receives an Evening Standard Award for the KBTC full season at the Garrick Theatre in the London West End in 2015-2016.

The Entertainer, by John Osborne
The Garrick Theatre
The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company

The live broadcast experience begins with a brief pre-show film, “John Osborne on John Osborne”, which features the playwright’s son musing about his dad’s work, and how it was meant to stir an audience out of its sensibilities. Bit of the angry young man and rebel, wanting to “wake up” Britain.

Act 1 (1 hour 16 minutes). We are in the back of a proscenium, and at the back of our darkened screen is Archie Rice (Ken), backlit in white/blue spotlight, with his back to us, tapping beats in slow sets of three, increasing in speed until he’s joined by a circle of dancing girls. We realize he’s on stage and we’re watching from the rear. It feels lonely.

It ends abruptly, without music, and the lights come up center and downstage on Archie’s dad, Billy Rice (Gawn Grainger), nestled in his armchair and brown sweater, flanked by a yellowed-fringed lampshade over a brown standing lamp. The scraped wood floor stretches in all directions, interrupted by a small credenza-sized table mid-stage, fronted by three hard-backed chairs in a row. No couch here, only seats for individuals, not really connected. The table will host a growing company of bottles, most of them gin, for a family who has seemingly substituted drinking for eating. By show’s end, the empty bottles may be stand-ins for the emptied souls on stage.

We immediately learn that Billy Rice is not an old softie, but an old hand. He’s easily able to project his opinionated voice to reach the back rows of the music halls he has performed in before his retirement. Yet Grainger’s Billy manages to make us listen to this all-too -believable man. Billy Rice shouts to make himself heard, partly to break the deadly silence of the “living room” and partly to be heard above the din of his (also shouting) family. He’s got enough gumption left to know he’s being passed by, and he’s not going down without a fight. He’s worried about his son, Archie, who won’t listen to him “He’s putting on a rrrrrrrrroad show!” Archie will “come a cropper”, he’s “bitten off more than he can chew.”

But Billy believes that his granddaughter Jean, who turns up unexpectedly, is a good girl who will do something. Jean likes listening to Billy, she always has. He’s full of the good old days. “I feel sorry for you people. You don’t know what it’s really like. You haven’t lived, most of you. You don’t know what it’s like. You’re all miserable, really. You don’t know what life can be like.”

Music up. Fanfare and piano. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, Archie Rice is the name, Archie Rice!” Thus begins our face to face journey with Kenneth Branagh as Archie Rice, The Entertainer.

Act 2 (50 min.) The end of the play sees Archie advancing towards a doorway. The white/blue light hovers, ready to cover him like the personal clouds that follow a sad sack wherever he goes. It feels lonely. He’s tapping out a solitary beat. He’ll wear these shoes forever.

Closing out his season under this particular theatrical banner, Branagh takes on the role of Archie Rice in "The Entertainer", directed by Rob Ashford, from August 20, 2016 through November 12, 2016. Branagh's choice of a John Osbourne play bookends and harkens back to Branagh's own early stage days when Branagh exploded as a fiery Jimmy Porter in Osbourne's "Look Back in Anger". Watch for Branagh Theatre Live simulcast and encore broadcasts to cinemas globally.

"You think I'm a bit busy these days?" he laughs over the phone from England. "Well, that's just the way I like it."

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company announces a "The Winter's Tale" is part of a 5-show season running from October 2015 through November 2016. Judi Dench plays Paulina and Branagh directs and plays Leontes. "The Winter's Tale" runs in repertory with "Harlequinade", co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, Terrance Rattigan's play within a play, about a troupe mounting productions of "The Winter's Tale"and "Romeo and Juliet". October 17, 2015 - January 16, 2016.

The comic farce "The Painkiller" runs from March 5, 2016 to April 30, 2016 and stars Branagh and Rob Brydon in a reprise of the play presented at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, directed by Sean Foley.


Branagh directs "Romeo and Juliet" with Lily James and Richard Madden paired not so happily ever after from March 5, 2016 through April 30, 2016.


From the Front Office - Part Three

American Democracy is hard work. And it never stops. It’s one thing after another. And just when you’ve made some strides forward . . . a setback. A major setback. A setback which could snowball into that avalanche which could wipe out the whole darn town.

It’s daunting. Depressing. You might feel flattened—literally knocked to the ground. And the voices around you might be ugly, full of some kind of venom, aimed at you. Or what you represent. Or what you stand for.

But this is America. It was founded with a fight for ideas and ideals. Since then, we’ve made many missteps in the course of our journey forward. Some are painful and shameful. Most of the time, gains are made slowly, through individual sacrifices and concerted efforts. All of the gains are made through courage.

So Americans, get up, dust yourself off. You didn’t think this would be easy, did you? If you look, there will be another American next to you, ready to give you moral support. If you ask, there will be another American ready to add a voice to yours.

The future is harder to shape than the past. And our past mistakes keep tripping us up, over and over, until we learn. If people don’t feel they have a stake in the future, it’s up to Americans to show them how they do, and mean it. If people feel marginalized, or helpless, censored or forgotten, it’s up to Americans to see that those people are heard and helped. But we will not be tricked into believing that the social and economic reforms woven into our country must be ripped out. Nor will we condone, accept or forget the repugnant attitudes and behavior of this President-elect. In spite of his assaults and threats, we will not splinter or despair. On the contrary, we will stand tall, together, listen and fight, together, cry and laugh together. That’s how we live, in America, as Americans.

The Announcer.

The 2016 Radiohead tour will be followed by a series of 2017 festival dates in the UK at the Manchester Arena
on July 4 and 5 and dates in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, France, Poland and the Netherlands.

Quality landscaping.

"A Moon Shaped Pool" concert dates in 2016 have been rounded out with selections from the back catalogue including the elusive "Let Down" plus the previously ephemeral "True Love Waits". There is no denying that the experience of "True Love Waits", as a fully rendered, years-in-the-making piercing ballad, casts an unforgettable spell. Thom and Jonny actually make you cry. There is no need to divorce yourself from the earlier live acoustic guitar version. Happily, unlike many relationships, they coexist. I cried twice: once in the balcony when the notes floated over the crowd and up to us, and once from the front row, when the human interchange was direct, the fierce intentionality and heartbreak fully present. The intimacy was a joy. The kind of thing you wish for in your life.


"If you can't imagine something marvelous, you're never going to find it." -- F. Duncan Haldane, 2016 Nobel Prize winner in physics,
for his work on the quantum effects of matter when in an extreme state.

Radiohead will play Glastonbury Festival in 2017. This 2016 Glastonbury poster by Stanley Donwood.

Welcome to Radiohead's long-awaited LP9!

In Radiohead coma.

Updates. When. Recovered.

Here, and more here, on the music page.

This Stanley Donwood artwork of human figure cut-outs filled with bits of black and white photos of natural topography.
Donwood is a lover of maps. This image is referred to as YTB - any guesses?

The "pool". The harbinger.

What's Up Art: More Stanley Donwood

Stanley Donwood in the Panic Office: The Art of the Bear at the Carriageworks in Sydney


The Art of the King of Limbs

  Radiohead 2017 tourdates

Thom Yorke, born October 8. Happy Birthday Thom.

Young new actors thank Ken-Friends and their generous support. RADA names Sir Kenneth Branagh as its new President.

What's Up Shakespeare: Celebrate His Infinite Variety ~ 400 Years on the world celebrates Shakespeare's infinite variety. Huzzah!

  Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes and others on the compact disc of Shakespeare's Sonnets titled When Love Speaks.

To celebrate Shakespeare 400, here is a reprise of Sir Kenneth Branagh's NPR interview on the most performed play on the planet.
Branagh's four-hour "Hamlet" turns 20 this year; it was released in theatres in December 1996.

Sir Kenneth Branagh on Hamlet
National Public Radio
Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air

GROSS: Today we have an interview with Kenneth Branagh about his film adaptation of "Hamlet," in which he stars as the prince of Denmark.

Branagh has also directed film adaptations of Shakespeare's "Henry V" and "Much Ado About Nothing" and he co-starred in the recent film of "Othello." His Hamlet features English and American actors: Derek Jacobi as Claudius; Julie Christie as Gertrude: Kate Winslett, Ophelia; Robin Williams, Osric; Jack Lemmon, Marcellus; and Billy Crystal is a gravedigger.

For listeners who've never read Hamlet or seen a production or who have just forgotten, tell us the basic story and in just, you know, plot terms.

BRANAGH: Sure. I'm not sure, you know, that lots of people do know the story of Hamlet, to be perfectly honest. And I certainly approached this film with that in mind. Hamlet is the heir to the Danish throne. His father has died -- poisoned by a serpent in his garden. This happens one month previous to the beginning of the play.

And we meet Hamlet when his mother Gertrude has remarried his uncle. This is one month after his father's death. Hamlet is unhappy about this -- bitterly angry that she should have married so quickly. He is visited by the ghost of his dead father, who tells him that he was murdered and that he was murdered by his uncle and that Hamlet must revenge him. So Hamlet's problem for the rest of the play is that he, the heir to the throne, has to kill the king -- the reigning monarch -- in order to avenge his father's death. And all the rest of what occurs in the play springs from that one central dilemma for Hamlet.

GROSS: Do you feel like you've brought a new overall vision to this production of Hamlet -- a different interpretation than you've seen in the past?

BRANAGH: I think the way we have produced our vision I hope is different and original. With things like Shakespeare, and Hamlet in particular, I think it's hard to claim any originality. I feel as though everything' s probably been done by minds much greater than mine, but we at least in choosing, for instance, to set it in a kind of impressionistic 19th century, in a much more colorful way than is perhaps usually done. Hamlet seems to be perceived as a very dark and Gothic play where all the characters are sort of predisposed to be manic-depressives.

GROSS: That's right.

BRANAGH: I don't believe that from reading the text. Nothing, nothing about what's said in the play gives the idea that under different circumstances, I -- not at a time when the king is just killed -- would they be anything other than very alive and curious and bright. I think that central sort of change of thought is the, if you like, originality of our view.

GROSS: This Hamlet is -- your production is four hours long and you use the whole text and even, I think, a couple of additions. Whereas when Olivier did his movie version of Hamlet, he cut out a lot of the minor characters -- a lot of the subplots, and shortened it to about half the length.


GROSS: With your production, why did you want to keep everything in, knowing how difficult it is to sell a movie that's four hours long?

BRANAGH: My experience of playing this play in the theater in several productions, including one that was at the full-length, was that the story was easier to follow. Even if people haven't seen or even heard of Hamlet, there is a misty kind of memory of a fellow in black, you know, and holding a skull and being a bit depressed.

GROSS: That's right.

BRANAGH: So they've got some idea of what to expect, and yet they get intimidated by it and they think it will be somebody being very morose and intellectual. Of course, he's a very bright and intelligent man, but there's a story there that is very thrilling. It has basic elements that Shakespeare's contemporaries used in this genre: the revenge melodrama. If there was a film equivalent, maybe it would be the thriller. As a form, Shakespeare uses madness, revenge, suicide, the visitation of a ghost, the possibility of incest -- these are all kind of crowd- pleasing, page-turning -- rather, you know, low elements, he might say.

But alongside that, there's a story of many different things: a family crisis; story about miscommunication in a family with which we can all identify, I think. It would be tough if your mother remarried your uncle inside a month of your father's death. That's a tough issue. But they also are a royal family, so what they do -- the impact of their personal problems is felt across a whole nation. And so you have the end of a dynasty, if you like.

You see a whole world in transition, and you see the very personal problems of people who are in situations that we might find ourselves in, but they have the extra dramatic quality of being watched -- they' re under the microscope. They're people in positions of power whose every move is scrutinized, rather like our own political leaders today; our own royal families today. And I think that that mixture of something very epic, dealing with the fate of nations and war and politics and something very, very familiar and intimate and domestic and personal is what makes the long version not only easier to follow, but more gripping.

GROSS: We're all taught in English classes that Shakespearian tragedies are about a great person of heroic proportion who is brought down by a fatal flaw. And in Hamlet, well the fatal flaw some people say "oh, it's his depression; it's his indecision." I had a feeling it was like really self-absorption. You know, watching your Hamlet, I'm thinking: well, Hamlet is so -- just oblivious to how he's destroying Ophelia and how he's treating her; and the way he's tearing apart his mother; and how he's dealing with her remarriage. And he's even oblivious to what this is doing to his kingdom. He's self-absorbed.

BRANAGH: Well, I think that that, for me, makes him very, very recognizable and human.

GROSS: Very contemporary.

BRANAGH: Very contemporary -- self-absorption of individuals this end of the century is pretty astonishing, especially post-Freud and post-all the sort of psychoanalysis that we have as part of our sort of daily bread and butter. It's on television; it's in self-help books in libraries. We're all somehow trying to find ourselves.

Now Hamlet is certainly doing that. In doing the long version, of course, what you get are moments of revelation, including I think a crucial one, which is at the end of the first half of our picture, where Hamlet goes out onto the plain in Norway and sees Fortinbras -- also a young man, also a prince, also just lost his father, also got his uncle on the throne -- who, as distinct from Hamlet, is happy to send off a group of 20,000 men to fight for a piece of Poland which is simply a sort of political expedient, because he thinks it's right. Hamlet can't do that, and it puts his problems in perspective.

He has to go back. He has to face his own problems. At that point, of course, Hamlet has become a murderer -- the self-absorption you so rightly mention has also produced someone who ends up killing the prime minister -- a fact which has been hushed up, but makes Denmark a hotbed of scandal, intrigue, and revolution.

Laertes comes back -- the dead father's son to avenge him. And I think in the long version, you get a sense of Hamlet traveling to a point in his life where perhaps he is seeing a little more outwardly, instead of inwardly. He is learning to forgive a little; be a little more tolerant.

For me, I suppose that's what the story's about -- that there's a point at which it's quite healthy to be looking at yourself; and there' s a point at which it perhaps tips over into something unhelpful.

GROSS: I wonder if you like the character of Hamlet? If you think of him as someone you want to -- that you would identify with and admire? Or somebody who is so flawed in some ways that you -- you have real problems with him?

BRANAGH: I do like him. I like him because he is flawed. I like him because of his fallibility. I think that his heroism, if you like, springs from his human frailty. This is a man who is often very cruel, as we mentioned before. He's brutal in his treatment of both Ophelia and Gertrude -- people that he loves.

But my experience of life, such as it is, is that the people are most cruel to those that they love. One of the reasons, I suppose, in the tragic, inevitable scheme of things that Hamlet has to die, is that we know that he has done some things which just, you know, in the grand scheme of things, can't be forgiven.

But he has essentially tried to face up to his problems, I believe -- has tried to work them out. But it's his very complexity -- his contrariness; his contradictory qualities; a man who can appreciate so keenly his friendship with Horatio and the importance of friendship; who can be so loving with Ophelia, on one hand, and then so terrifyingly aggressive with her -- this is somebody I think who is remarkably human and yeah, I think he's somebody I'd like to spend time with.

GROSS: One of the many famous lines that comes from Hamlet is about being cruel to be kind. And he says this to -- I forget whether it' s Gertrude or Ophelia...

BRANAGH: He says it to Gertrude.

GROSS: ... and you know, I just -- this is the first time I found myself wondering: is Hamlet so kind of gifted with words that he can rationalize whatever he's doing?

BRANAGH: He, to some extent, may well be a prisoner of a very strong intellect. And when he says that to her, he has just murdered the prime minister, who's lying in a pool of blood in her bedroom.

Their lives have changed forever from that point. The prime minister' s been killed. The world will change.

GROSS: This is Polonius.


GROSS: And it's an amazing scene, really -- yeah, he's just -- he sees this figure lurking behind the curtain and kills him, thinking it's probably going to be the king...


GROSS: ... but it's actually Polonius, who's got his own problems, but Hamlet wouldn't have wanted to kill him. And he's lying there in this big pool of blood, and Gertrude and Hamlet are just, like, talking and talking and trying to work things out -- just kind of oblivious to the fact that there's this bleeding corpse a couple of feet away.

BRANAGH: Well, they're having the conversation, if you like, that they should have had at the beginning of the film when Hamlet really wants to say to her: "how could you be so insensitive as to marry my uncle within one month of my father's death?" So they need to say things that go above and beyond their sensitivity to the fact that they've just killed somebody.

GROSS: My guest is Kenneth Branagh. We'll talk more after a break.

There are so many lines from Hamlet that are famous. Run through some of them.

BRANAGH: Well, we have the -- probably the most famous line in English literature: "To be or not to be? That is the question." You mentioned "cruel to be kind," "neither a borrower nor a lender be," "to thine own self be true." You've got "alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio." I always used to think it was "alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well."

GROSS: Me too.

BRANAGH: Yeah, and that was the kind of thing that I picked up as a kid off the television, 'cause there were all these cliches about Hamlet. So it's full of them. It's absolutely full of them, as Shakespeare is, but Hamlet in particular is full of quotes that have absolutely worked their way into the language.

GROSS: Give me a sense of one of these quotes that is kind of really worn out when it's used as, like, common wisdom or a great quote out of context -- but really works in context and has a genuinely interesting meaning in context.

BRANAGH: Well, I'll tell you a funny example of it, which is to refer to a line that you mentioned earlier on: "I must be cruel" -- the line in the text is -- "I must be cruel only to be kind" which colloquially becomes "you have to be cruel to be kind" or whatever.

I had boils on my knee when I was about seven or eight years old, and my mother used to squeeze them with hot and could poultice. She claimed there was no other way to deal with this. I've since taken her to task about it.

But that was the line she used to come out with, you know -- "I must be cruel to be kind" as she squeezed these boils and I was seven or eight years in Belfast.

Now that line, you know, in context, is, I have to say, nothing to do with squeezing boils and is -- does express some of what you rightly mention is this -- a certain kind of self-righteousness that Hamlet has from time to time, which is not a very appealing quality, but which is also part of being a human being in a very traumatic situation.

GROSS: Tell me about approaching the "to be or not to be" soliloquy -- the most famous of all soliloquies, perhaps leading with the most famous line in all of theater. What did you think about in order to make that sound meaningful, and not like "oh yeah, those lines -- I know those lines."

BRANAGH: Well, I 'spose there were lots of things to consider. I had played it in the theater many times, and found it difficult.

You come on sometimes -- I'd seen actors do it, actually -- rushing on, say the line very quickly, hoping to get this famous passage out of the way. The audience feels rather cheated then, and I used to come on -- on one production and say it slowly. But I found that the entire audience whispered it under their breath with me, and had I stopped in the middle of the line, it would have been completed by the rest of the audience. I felt like I should have a child with a bouncing ball behind me.

So I think you've got to -- in film at least, you were -- you didn' t have an enormous audience there. And in fact, in the way we shot it, which was with Hamlet looking into a mirror, it meant that in this vast state hall set full of mirrored doors, there was only myself and the camera operator. So that at least gave me a feeling of isolation. We couldn't have anybody else in the room because they would have been reflected. You have to try and say it as truthfully and honestly as possible. One of the things about that speech that I think sometimes gets forgotten is that Hamlet has been sent for prior to this.

Sometimes, the actor's so concerned with the famousness of the speech that he comes on with that in mind, and in fact, it's quite useful as an actor to come on with some sense of "hello, where is everybody?" -- of possibly being watched. So that that quality -- the slight paranoid thing -- runs under the speech as well.

You try and say this truthfully as possible, and as if the lines had never been said before. For me, having done it a lot before, I'd got a lot of my neuroses out of the way and I also felt: do it in a mirror with Hamlet literally talking to himself and with the suspicion, which we as the film audience know to be true, that Claudius is actually watching him on the other side of what we find out is a two-way mirror -- was something that was very helpful to me. Our atmosphere in the court was one of suspicion and spying and intrigue -- hidden doors and two-way mirrors -- and there was something that put a little sort of nervous thing under the speech, which was very helpful.

GROSS: Can I ask you to choose one of the soliloquies from Hamlet, and just talk about how you approached it in your line readings - - where to breathe; what words to accent; what words to just -- what to really, kind of, bring more to the surface; what to just kind of play down and make more subtle; how to make it sound conversational as opposed to a speech?

BRANAGH: Well, each one's different, and in each case before you approach the speech, you look at what's available to you in terms of printed editions of the text and whether you believe there's a consistency to the way the speech appears to have been punctuated.

Often, that's not the case. Some editions will give you a comma at the end of the line, instead of a full stop; or give you a full stop in the middle of the line. There'll be a different reading. Some people are very scrupulous about Shakespeare's punctuation, and some people like to be very cavalier with it. Derek Jacobi and I often disagree about this. Derek's a great -- feels that because nobody was there to check that you can throw it all away.

And one of the things that he loves to do is to make sure that each line is said differently, particularly -- I mean, for instance, specific example. When Hamlet sees Ophelia at the end of the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, he says: "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered" -- "orisons" being prayers or prayer books. Now, you can say the line straight: "Nymphet, in thy orisons in your prayers be all my sins remembered." Or you can say: "Nymph, in thy orisons? Your -- at your prayers are all my sins remembered?" Those kind of decisions you make, line by line, on a soliloquy.

And you often look for words that repeat themselves. I sometimes do an exercise of looking down the end-line -- the end word of each speech, each line, and seeing whether there is a recurring pattern there.

Also, you have to work out whether there's a single idea or a single metaphor sustained all the way through the speech, so that, you know, there are endless metaphors sometimes occupying 10, 15 lines to do with whatever -- weather; the sea; mountains; intricate metaphors about insects and images to do with how that affects politics and things.

And so you kind of work it like that. And then, one of the things I tried to do with this, in each case, was to do all of that kind of work and especially if it's rhyming -- you have to be aware of that, and yet touch it lightly. It's very important to be aware of literally the sound of it. Sometimes when you are stuck interpretively, you need to go through it and just sort of, as it were, taste the consonants. There are a lot of middle consonants and end consonants. But as soon as you hit a little more sharply, to give definition to it, provides a kind of music that gives you an intuitive sense of what the meaning is.

So I think you throw all of that at it, and then soliloquy to soliloquy you try and say it as truthfully as possible in that moment, forgetting it -- forgetting all of that technical preparatory work, so that the final obligation to the audience is to be as real as possible in that moment; with all technical preparation forgotten about -- utterly in service to the idea of being truthful.

GROSS: What do you do -- like, the line that you mentioned before -- that Hamlet says to Ophelia about "in my orisons." Is that the word, "orisons?"

BRANAGH: "In the orisons" -- yeah.

GROSS: I mean, I wouldn't have know that means "prayer."


GROSS: So, don't you feel like cuing the audience, like: "OK ladies and gentlemen, that word"...


GROSS: "... means prayer." Or just having something -- there's so many words in Shakespeare that a contemporary audience -- an audience who wasn't filled with scholars -- wouldn't know. So how do you deal with those words so that there's some hint of what they mean, without...

BRANAGH: Well, in that instance, I think it...

GROSS: ... defining them.

BRANAGH: ... in that instance, you can be relatively simple in having her have a prayer book that she's looking at...

GROSS: Right.

BRANAGH: ... and have Hamlet in the way "in thy orisons" -- either with some sort of gesture towards it, so that the audience will pick up or intuit, if you like, a great deal of what is going on, even though they may not necessarily get the meaning of every line.

Like, there's a line in the full version -- the closet scenes -- you know, that scene where he says: "for in the fatness of these percy times" -- we used to have a lot of fun, actually, during -- talking -- because that suddenly appeared to us like a newspaper -- the Percy Times -- was a newspaper that ran through Elsinore -- but "in the fatness of these percy times" -- "percy" if I recall right, you know, meaning sort of overgrown, you know, ranc -- rancorous times, these corrupt times.

Well, you know, in the context of that scene, you just color the line with your own sense of what "in the fatness of these percy times." You know, the audience is going to get some sense that Hamlet's using the word "percy" with some ironic coloring, and in the context of other lines, they will understand.

I think it gives, if nothing else, it literally gives poetry. It gives music. It gives sounds -- the sound of the word sometimes having an impact on the ear and on the senses generally -- that wins an audience over and that is a sort of treat in itself, 'cause some of the sounds are very odd and very delicious.

And even though we may not literally understand it, I think that's fair enough. There's a great deal in the play that, I think, because it's a classic and has withstood 400 years of people throwing themselves at it, that resists definitiveness. There is mystery in there, and that mystery -- Hamlet says to Guildenstern "you would pluck out the heart of my mystery." No will pluck out the heart of Hamlet, the play's mystery.

But on the way, you can -- you can, if you serve, as we do in this one, the whole text up, I think that intuitively, the audience respond to it in a very mysterious way. And I think that that's a magical, magical thing which we underestimate because we so want to nail everything. What kind of Hamlet is it? What's his motivation?

What does it mean? Can I have it in three sentences please. It's not possible, and that's very exciting.

GROSS: Kenneth Branagh. We'll hear more from him in the second half of our show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of our interview with Kenneth Branagh recorded in January after the release of his film adaptation of Hamlet. Now, your previous film was called "A Midwinter's Tale" and it was about a kind of rag-tag group of actors who were totally broke; they' re all utterly eccentric; and they're doing a production of Hamlet in this closed-down church in a rural area. This is a comedy.

I want to just play a bit of a very funny audition scene in which the director of the play is auditioning a very pretentious actor who wants to star in the role of Hamlet. Here it is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "A MIDWINTER'S TALE") FIRST UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hamlet isn't just Hamlet. Oh, no, no. Oh, no. No, Hamlet is me. Hamlet is Bosnia. Hamlet is this desk. Hamlet is the air. Hamlet is my grandmother. Hamlet is everything you've ever thought about -- sex, about . . . geology


FIRST ACTOR: In a very loose sense, of course.

SECOND ACTOR: Can you fence?

FIRST ACTOR: I adore to fence. I live to fence. In a sense, I fence to live.

GROSS: Kenneth Branagh, was that ever you? Were you ever -- doing it that much, about the meaning of Hamlet?

BRANAGH: I've been on either end of that kind of conversation, where people are -- sort of intellectualize their response to the play or -- I remember there was one occasion where I worked with a director who was talking to the court, who was standing around while in a production of Hamlet.

Claudius and Gertrude were walking in, and he said: "and what I'd like you to do, in a strange way, what I'd like you to do is to absent yourself from yourself and give yourself to nationhood." So -- a lot of heads turned around, and suddenly somebody piped up and said: "so you'd like us to bow." "Yes, bow. That's good." "Good."

GROSS [laughing]: I love this actor in it because he's so much trying to prove that he owns Hamlet, and I think everybody wants to -- it's such a kind of universal play. It's been done so many times over so many centuries, and everybody wants to prove, like, it's mine. I understand it better than you do.

BRANAGH: Yeah. And there are lots of things in it -- that you can pick up on words, characters. People can seize on things -- this particular actor, and it goes on to talk about his extraordinary research for the role of Hamlet. He said: "well, you know, normally I would have spent about nine months in Denmark to get this right -- get the feel of it; get the smell of it." And they say: "well, what did you do this time?" He said: "Well, I got this book on the Eiffel Tower, because Laertes visits Paris, and you know, I just wanted an image in my head." Actors get very funny about this kind of stuff.

GROSS: So what was it like for you the first time you did Hamlet? How old were you?

BRANAGH: I was 20 years old and I was at drama school. I was at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and -- in London -- and it was a panic-making experience 'cause it was very alarming to see these great sort of set-pieces be so close to each other. Now, that was a very cut version -- about two, two hours 20 minutes. But a lot of the sort of big famous bits still in.

And partly because of the cuts, but mostly 'cause this is the way it goes, they are very close to each other. You suddenly do the " rogue and peasant slave" soliloquy, which is an extraordinary piece of writing in which the actor, I suppose, is required to strike 12.You've got to give it all you've got, 'cause there he is trying to work himself up into a state where he can revenge his father. He' s trying to be like the actor you've just seen.

You finish that. You come off, and you come on immediately to "to be or not to be" -- a meditative, reflective speech which, in a sense, could be taken out of the play. It doesn't advance the plot at all. Again, naked, but in a very different way, 'cause you can't do all that ranting and raving. And it's the most famous speech ever written, probably. And I found that all these things coming so close together meant that for me, the experience of the part, to begin with, was a sort of obstacle course. I used to come off in the wings and ask to know where I was going to go back on again, because just getting through it, remembering it, and as Noel Coward would say "not bumping into the furniture" was quite a lot to take on board the first time.

GROSS: I imagine remembering it is pretty darn hard.

BRANAGH: Mm. It is, and of course, you don't always remember it in the right order. One of the other things Midwinter's Tale talked about were some of the famous, you know, paraphrases.

When Gertrude first talks to Hamlet in the court scene, she says: "Hamlet, cast off thy nighted color." And I was in a production with someone that Gertrude said: "Hamlet, cast off thy colored nighty." Then there are a whole series of characters in the play -- secret characters. There's a dog in the closet scene, or at least so actors would have you believe, because the ghost says to Hamlet: "but look, amazement on thy mother sits," so this little dog called "Amazement, " we believed, populates the play. Then there are classic characters -- the Hamlet charwoman, Elsie Nore. Then there's...

GROSS: That's the name of the castle.

BRANAGH: Exactly. Somebody says: "they came with martial stork, across the plains." So "Marshall Stork" is another general who's in there. And also Horatio's girl friend, Felicity. At the end, Hamlet says to Horatio before, as Horatio's attempting to commit suicide, he says: "Absent thee from Felicity Awhile." Her second name is "Awhile." "Felicity Awhile" -- Horatio's girl friend. The hidden meaning in Hamlet.

GROSS: Well, the first time you did Hamlet, were there any hidden meanings that you saw that you thought: "well, I am going to bring this to the surface and I will show what Hamlet is really about.

BRANAGH: Well, one of the things I did that I lost over various productions of playing it, was a sense that he absolutely goes mad, live, in front of the audience, in the scene with Ophelia -- in the nunnery scene. He meets this woman who has been banned from seeing him. The pair of them, it seems, love each other very much, but he feels that she' s been unjust. She feels he's behaved irrationally.

Anyway, in the midst of this confused, almost adolescent, you know -- "will you be my boy friend?" "no." "will you be my girl friend?" "no" -- sane. He suddenly says: "where is your father?" And she says: "at home, my lord," which is a lie because she knows that her father is watching. And I chose that moment in that very first production to do a great kind of spastic convulsion of heartbreak and madness, with eyes rolling and all sorts of nonsense that then left me pretty much nowhere to go for the rest of the play because I was mad in the middle of the third act, so I had two acts of being completely potty. So I dropped that after a while. I still think it's quite a heartbreak. I just don't think that he goes as erratically mad as I did back in whenever it was -- 1980.

GROSS: What did you director tell you?

BRANAGH: Oh, director was a very cool guy. He said: "yeah, just go with it, man, you know. Just kind of see where it takes you, man, you know. It's quite interesting -- interesting choice."

GROSS: Kenneth Branagh, a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much.

BRANAGH: Thank you. My pleasure.


How Far Sir Ken Has Come: While yet he lives to say this thing's to do.

Supporting the Arts: Last year's 2015 Note of Thanks from RADA and Kenneth Branagh

What's Up Theatre: The Scottish Play -- Kenneth Branagh's Summer Spell in Manchester

Macbeth's run at the Manchester International Festival is unbearably short--but for those unable to attend, there is every
reason to believe that Branagh is in serious preparation for his film of the Scottish play. Long has he wished to bring it
to the screen, and his percolations have led to what he calls "anchor scenes". He's had several images and scenes
for Macbeth for some time, working on storyboards to further the process. For Branagh, the key
is the world in which the film will be set, from which everything flows.

According to the MIF program, "This tragic tale of ambition and treachery unfolds within the walls of an intimate
deconsecrated Manchester church." Brrrr. The choice of a former church for the infiltration of the
witchery and evil which rises up to confront and consume a man already chills the spine.


From a 1996 interview with Kenneth Branagh

KB: Shakespeare always denies sleep to his tragic heroes in moments of crisis, a spectacular example being Macbeth. In Macbeth he calls it "nature's balm... the cure for hurt minds." You don't get sleep because you are anxious.

CMM: Do you still feel daunted when you start a project, or when you arrive on the set for the first day of shooting?

KB: Getting sleep is a tough thing to do. It's a constant anxiety, and I'll go through various things: I'll take some sleeping pills, I'll take some herbal pills, I'll try to have a massage, or anything that will trick me into getting the sleep that is necessary. That's a crucial thing; it's a very Shakespearean thing. Shakespeare always denies sleep to his tragic heroes in moments of crisis, a spectacular example being Macbeth. In Macbeth he calls it "nature's balm... the cure for hurt minds." You don't get sleep because you are anxious.

CMM: As an actor or as a director?

KB: In both cases. As an actor because you are aware of a greater amount of expectation, particularly from yourself, in playing a role that is so open to interpretation, which relies so heavily on the personality of the actor. Whether it's Shakespeare or anything else, your try to find, in the current state of knowledge, what you think to be the sort of appropriate state of preparation to act well.

This is a constant mystery to me, because it changes all the time. It changes as you get older, you work with different people, it's a different project, you're having a bad day, you're having a good day, it worked yesterday when you had drank a cup of coffee before the take, but then a cup of coffee makes you forget your lines... You get anxious as an actor; and as a director, you're anxious for other people.

CMM: You've done Hamlet several times on stage, for different directors, and you've done a radio version. Was there a sense here, because this is a big-budget film, or because of your age, that this Hamlet was going to be your last crack at it, that this is the version that's going to fix it?

KB: Absolutely. "Time's winged chariot" was hurrying very near. What I tried to do was to convince myself, with many years of preparation, direct and indirect, experience in playing the part, with my own relationship with the part, with all the homework in the world done, that, in a way that couldn't really happen when I did Henry V, my obligation as Hamlet was, once that camera turned, to be as real and as natural and as truthful as possible in the moment, within the style of what we were doing, and to forget about all that information, forget about what you prepared. Julie Christie used to say to me, "You do it different every time, don't you?" I said, "If you say it different to me, I'll say it different to you." It's just however it comes out.

We've got to trust the work we've done. I don't believe in trying, on film, to repeat some loved moment from the theater, recreating something, repeating things --"I was terribly effective when I did the line like that." I like to try to give it away, and just, in that moment, to have worked up to the point where you might be able to leap off into some inspirational percentage, that you and the other actors might just catch something so that your scene and the performance sings a bit in that kind of mysterious way.

CMM: Can you give me an example from the film?

KB: The closet scene was different with Julie Christie than any time I had played it before. There's one specific scene -- it's a scene I like very much -- the "recorder" scene, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, after the play. We were in this tight space in this little theater we created, and the camera crew and everybody was saying, "You should break this up -- this shot here, this shot there -- let's block it so that we can cover it from six or seven different angles." And I said, "No, I feel that we should do this in one." I've always wanted that scene in the theater to go like some whippet; Hamlet is in a way at his least attractive, but he's also at his wittiest, with his extraordinary aggression against these two lads. We had everybody kind of cooking at the right time, and I thought the scene was funny and vicious.

We did a number of things in the film where we shot things in one, which puts some real flame under the actors. They get kind of nervous; it creates a kind of theatrical effect. It actually helped to create conditions, as I thought, that were conducive to bringing out that sort of extra under-the-skin kind of tingle that the audience can feel, I'm sure, when it's happening right in front of you, and you don't know what's going to happen next.

CMM: Are stage actors or film actors more receptive to that kind of approach?

KB: I find my best experiences are with people who do a combination of the two. What you do have from stage actors is an ability to learn three or four pages of dialogue, and to be able to come up with it zippily, and not need to do it line by line. If you've got actors who can remember it and are really on the tips of their toes about it, and they're also good film actors, then I think you get the best of both worlds. I sometimes feel frustrated when I want to do things with the camera and with the scene, which, I believe, essentially, gives the scene to the actors, and an actor can't sustain it for over a minute or so. But, what these [film] actors do have often is, in the moments they produce, an absolute, laser-beam radio-signal connection with the truth.

CMM: What's still out there that you want to do?

KB: In the not so distant future, if I have the chance to do them, Love's Labour's Lost and Macbeth. I want to do Love's Labour's Lost as a musical. I've always liked the play. It's very funny, very melancholy, very unusual, and has this peculiar Shakespearean magic in there, it really breaks your heart at the end, and it's also silly -- very, very silly.


I find that I get an idea about the world in which it's set, the period if you like (though I try to make all our periods pretty loose), and then you just keep putting every scene and every character up against that idea to see whether it's going to limit it or work for that character. For Macbeth, it's witchcraft -- you really have to find a world in which you believe that witchcraft is in the air, that it's real. I want get a world going for the characters where the witchcraft really sends shivers down your spine, so that you know, when Macbeth knows, when he makes this pact with the devil's representatives, how very serious it is; so religion has to be very important. Then the marriage between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth -- that marriage has to be very carefully set. She says, "I have given suck," and yet they don't have children; is she older, is she younger? And it's Scotland. You get an idea, you get pictures. And these I find are "anchor pictures."

With each of those plays now, in terms of the development of a film, I've got several scenes in each (many more in Love's Labour's than in Macbeth) where I can see the film and hear it. I can see the dance routine in Love's Labour's Lost: I can see a fantastic library, a fantastic circular library, and a dance routine on skateboards (but it's not a set now; a version of skateboards), and with them going all the way around the ceiling. I can see the women on punts on a river.

So I'm currently bashing away at those two plays. I carry copies of the plays with me (I've got them in my bag), and I'll sit and study a scene for a bit, and make notes, and work up some storyboarded images.

A 2016 Message of Thanks from Sir Kenneth Branagh

Happy New Year to all Ken Friends!

In the year in which I was honoured to be invited to join RADA as its President, it was particularly touching to witness once again your astonishing generosity on my birthday.

My very very grateful thanks for this magnificent contribution . The training of RADA students, (I can say very confidently having auditioned so many for our London season), is truly exceptional, and the Ken Friends make more of that available to even more with this incredible sum. Thank you so much.

That so many of you laid out yet more of your hard earned cash to see our work at the Garrick was really something. This season could not exist without you, and I hope that on stage or screen across this next year, you will enjoy the work to come.

I wish you all great happiness and health through 2016 and beyond, and I thank you once again for honouring my parents and my alma mater with such staggering generosity.

From across the footlights at the bottom of the Charing Cross Road,
Your Friend,

What's Up Art: More Stanley Donwood



Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, the new release from Thom Yorke, available as a legal Bittorrent in a bid to make music available from artist to listener, without the recording or tech industries taking a big bite. You gotta admit, Thom stands behind what he says about mainstream music platforms not being the right answer for musicians. This is his effort to make a change.

AMOK is a 2013 Atoms for Peace original release. Original artwork by Stanley Donwood.

      Atoms for Peace tours AMOK and the Eraser.

  The painting by Christopher Wool, who worked with text. Untitled (AMOK) 1989, acrylic and resin on aluminum, currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Macbeth Conquers New York: The Park Avenue Armory triumph for Sir Kenneth Branagh.

What's Up Stage Branagh was "born to play Macbeth" in "a thriller diller".

Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford co-directed this critically-acclaimed production of Macbeth for the Manchester International Festival in July 2013.

Our review of the sold out stage Macbeth in Manchester, UK is in at What's Up Stage.

  New: Sir Kenneth Branagh: Making Macbeth

Macbeth--A short video about the production featuring Ray Fearon who played Macduff in Manchester. Richard Coyle takes that role in New York.

Jonny bowing for "Pyramid Song", Santa Barbara Bowl: it was raining but we forgot that . . .

Radiohead: The King of Limbs


What's Up Music:

Radiohead - The Zen Album
The King of Limbs: Explore, Expand, Embrace

By Renie Pickman-Thoon

Radiohead - From the Basement 2011 - The King Of Limbs - photos and quickie review at What's Up Music.

An excerpt from an interview with Kenneth Branagh by the Telegraph follows, where the actor/director discusses what makes him go.

'Not that I feel I need to justify it or explain it, but I know it wasn’t about, “Hey, look at me”,’ Branagh says evenly of his early working life. 'It was about absolute enjoyment of what I was doing. I did not expect to be allowed to be an actor, to be allowed to eventually direct things. 'So really, frankly, for many, many years after that, there’s still a kind of “pinch me I can’t believe this is happening” thrill to it. There was an ebullience; there was an effusion. A sheer enjoyment of doing it. Maybe the work ethic was to do with justifying that one was worthy of that.’

But often, he adds, it was about fairness. If he ran his own theatre company, he could pay everyone the same money. If he made his own films and turned a profit, he could split it equally. 'Not rocket science,’ he notes, 'but things I believed in.’ He talks about In the Bleak Midwinter, his 1995 comedy, shot in black and white, about a small theatre company's attempt to put on Hamlet at Christmas. 'One of the greatest pleasures I had was when we had a screening on a Sunday morning in the West End. And most of the crew and cast came, including Joan Collins. I’d paid for the film myself with the money I made from Frankenstein, and we sold it at a profit. The books were completely open. And as they left the cinema that morning, we had all the envelopes laid out and we gave everybody a cheque – including Joan Collins, who nearly fell over. She said, “I’ve been in the businessÖ for a quite a long time, and this has never happened.” She opened it and she said, “F***ing hell!” Because it was not inconsiderable.’

By now we have moved back to the Yellow Bird HQ and, sitting in the dining area, Branagh is drinking tea. 'I remember telling my dad about that and he thought that was bloody good. Because he used to tell me about Friday nights, Crown Pub, in Belfast, opposite the Europa [Hotel], in one of those booths – they’d finish work at three or four o’clock and he would be doling out the cash. It reminded me of that. So I was proud of that. I thought that was fair and that was sharing it out. And because I’d paid for that, I was able to protect the film. It didn’t get snaffled up by all the ways and many means you can be shafted in our business. 'And there you go,’ he concludes. 'It doesn’t make me Saint Ken. But [the motives] can be as straight as that.’

Straightness, fairness and camaraderie: these are things that matter to Branagh. Also in the context of In the Bleak Midwinter he mentions the writer and director Richard Curtis: he was 'a big fan of my little comedy. When he need not have been, Richard was somebody who encouraged and was simply kind and enthusiastic. And smart and funny. That’s one of those things in this business that you remember.’ Thus, when I ask Branagh why exactly he had undertaken a comic cameo last year in Curtis’s slight The Boat That Rocked, he replies that he was returning the favour. 'If Richard Curtis had asked me to walk off a plank into the ocean I’d have done so.’

'Ken genuinely loves the idea of everyone together in a team,’ Curtis says. 'That egalitarian spirit, I think, is why he wanted to get on so much when he was young – just for the crack of it. He rang me up right before we began shooting The Boat That Rocked, and he said, “As a director, I know how scary the first day is – you’ve to get to know your costume person and your cameraman. So I want you to ignore me completely.” He was on set for four days and he wasn’t remotely precious or grand, just completely humble. And like a lot of English classical actors, such as Michael Gambon, Ian McKellen and Simon Russell Beale, he is very good at comedy.’

For Branagh, support and encouragement must go both ways. Daniel Radcliffe credits Branagh with pushing him in the direction of Equus: Branagh had the original idea for Radcliffe to star in the much-praised 2007 West End revival of Peter Shaffer’s play. 'Ken was great because he was always looking out for possibilities of stuff we could be doing together,’ Radcliffe recalls, adding that he originally suggested they do Rattigan’s The Browning Version. Branagh oversaw early workshops for Equus. Meanwhile, Branagh has cast his Wallander co-star, Tom Hiddleston, in his next directorial project, Thor, starring Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. It’s another intriguing left turn in a consistently adventurous career, but at this early stage of production (filming begins in Los Angeles in the next few weeks) Branagh is contractually prevented from speaking about what, one imagines, will be a CGI-heavy Hollywood blockbuster comic-book adaptation. But he has been using his time in Sweden to research Viking mythology and visit Norway on fact-finding trips. So serious is he about the project that, last year, he handed over to Michael Grandage his planned directing of Jude Law in Hamlet – a huge theatrical undertaking that he had been preparing a year.

'I tried for a long time to see if I could do both [Hamlet and Thor],’ he says, 'and I couldn’t. And then I said to Michael and Jude, “What do you think?” You know, it was a difficult moment. You don’t want to let anybody down. But honesty’s the best policy.’ For Branagh the prospect of making a Marvel superhero movie 'is just such an extra-ordinary adventure to go on. It doesn't happen every two minutes. And Michael and Jude said, “On your way, and enjoy it . . . ’’’

Back outside Ystad’s swimming-pool, Wallander is slumping down the road. On the director’s instruction Branagh does it three, four, five times. On each occasion, he stops beneath a tree. On one take he exhales heavily. Another, he stares up at the branches, eyes closed. Another, he seems almost catatonically numb.

These are the closing scenes of The Man Who Smiled. 'It’s Wallander walking away from his job, basically,’ Branagh explained. 'He’s constantly been in turmoil about whether he wants to continue to be a policeman. And he appears to have decided not to be.’ Over the three new adaptations 'he goes on an interesting journey, which is to really deeply question why he’s a policeman and the price he pays, the personal price, in relation to death . . . ’

For Branagh, too, the work is important, but not if it means losing yourself. 'I’d say that’s from my parents. It’s a basic Irish working-class thing.

I was working with a huge star not long before my father died, and he said, [in a broad Ulster accent], “You wanna watch him, I think he’s forgot himself . . . ”

'Now,’ Branagh says with a smile, 'that’s a cardinal sin for them. It’s about simply remembering yourself and remembering what you’re doing and to be in the here and now. And know who your friends are, and know the value of money – in as much as it isn’t going to make you happy. Your health is really the greatest blessing you can ever have, and after that friends and family. 'And all of those things contain complexities and sophistications and plenty of stuff to keep your life interesting. But if it’s about the spurious pursuit of the glittering prizes, you’ll find that they won’t give you a hug late at night.’

What's Up Art: Stanley Donwood, "Over Normal" at Fifty24SF Gallery, 218 Fillmore Street, San Francisco   Yeah, that Stanley Donwood.

Atoms for Peace consists of musicians Beck drummer Joey Waronker, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich,
percussionist Forro in the Dark lead Mauro Refosco, and bassist Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The band wrapped a five-stop US tour in April 2010.

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

The Bard's New Profile Pic


Forget the Chandos portrait, and get ready to welcome instead "The Cobbe oil painting of William Shakespeare". According to Professor Stanley Wells, whose scholarly books related to Shakespeare are perhaps in their 524th editions, this newly-identified portrait (below) is as genuine as it gets. Visual and scientific dating evidence appear to affirm that Shakespeare had a handsome and intelligent face, and looked younger than his 46 years.

William Shakespeare, at 46, in a portrait painted in his lifetime. The latest in the search to discover the true likeness of the greatest Western writer in history. Shakespeare died in 1616, only 6 years after the portrait was completed.

On March 9, 2009, at the unveiling at Dartmouth House, in London's Mayfair, Professor Wells (on the right, above), the chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, declared himself 90% certain the portrait is authentic as "the only lifetime portrait of Shakespeare".

Investigations were carried out by Professor Rupert Featherstone, director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute at Cambridge University which focuses on conservation of easel paintings, Hamburg University where they dated the oak panelling of the painting and Tager Stonor Richardson, which carried out infrared imaging. Mark Broch, curator of the Cobbe Collection also carried out painstaking research.

The painting will go on display at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, Shakespeare's birthday.

Compare this rendering, proven to have been contemporaneously created during Shakespeare's lifetime.

Excerpt from an interview with Kenneth Branagh in the Mainichi Weekly Online
20 July 2007

Q: According to your biography, you left Belfast when you were 9 to escape the Troubles. Do you think your experience of the conflict there influences your battle scenes?

A: I think it makes me aware of how easy it is for people to hate, rather than to love. I think it's a very exciting time in Northern Ireland right now. Politically, a massive, massive shift has occurred, and ancient hatreds have been put aside. I think an awareness of conflict and the need to resolve, the need for peace was very much part of my background. And this film [The Magic Flute, directed by Branagh] certainly is about the need for peace.

Q: What is your motto in life?

A: A good question. A hard question. It sounds like a cliche, but there is a line from Hamlet, at the end, where he says, "The readiness is all." In that context, it's probably about being ready for death, but I think it's a motto for me and it's about trying to be open in life, be open to experience, be open to situations and to people. And be ready, be ready to be surprised, sometimes be ready to be disappointed, be ready to be excited and be ready for anything. But be ready for things to change. Be active and positive. I suppose another way of saying the same thing would be: 'Anything can happen, enjoy it.'"

For more background on Branagh's film version of Hamlet, try The Readiness is All -- The Filming of Hamlet

Woody Allen as the Dane? Only by way of Billy Crystal.

Kenneth Branagh in David Mamet's "Edmond". Reviews and photos of Branagh at the National Theatre.

Offsite Offerings

Need Shakespeare? Check here for outside Shakespeare links.

Need a Shax monologue? Try the Monologue Archive.

Read Shakespeare here, at the Literature Network online.

Voices and Verses in Film: What are those poems and who wrote them?

Theatre Highlights: Alan Rickman on Stage

Alan Rickman as Elyot in a true-to-life Private Lives.

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Features of the Daily Telegiraffe

What's Up: BOOKS Sarah Hatchuel, "Branagh and The Bard: A Companion to the Shakespearean Films of Kenneth Branagh"

What's Up: FILM Waking Will Divinely: Shakespeare in Love

What's Up: STAGE Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth

Back Issues:

  What's Up STAGE Rufus Sewell Takes on Macbeth


*** DID YOU KNOW? ***

NEW YORK - "Hamlet" was chosen as the greatest poem of the millenium in the New York Times Magazine millenium review!

LONDON (Reuters) - William Shakespeare was picked as Britain's "Man of the Millennium" by a poll of BBC radio listeners!

ENJOY . . . Chosen as the greatest poem of the millenium, Hamlet endures.

ENJOY . . . Who is the "Greatest Fictional Character in World Literature and Legend" - - one guess.
With the Austen lover's link.

ENJOY . . . Back issues of our features, indexed by subject on the front page, and on current feature pages.

ENJOY . . . Programme notes from the NFT's Branagh Retrospective, now added off of the Hamlet page.

ENJOY . . . Gertrude and Claudius, a book by John Updike, explores the new King and Queen.

ENJOY . . . Shakespeare in Less Than 10 Minutes Review of a video of restorations of the earliest surviving silent Shakespeare films from 1899-1911. Also, can you choose your five favourite Shakespeare films? Check your picks against Kenneth Branagh's choices.

ENJOY . . . Director Michael Almereyda's film "collage" of a knit-hatted Ethan Hawke as a Gen-X slacker. Our review of his Hamlet is here.

Almereyda does Denmark as a corporate prison. From the New York Times: Two Fortinbrases and the Ghosts of Hamlets Past. The last stage Hamlet of 1999 in New York becomes a photo album of Hamlets past, including Branagh, Olivier, and Gibson. Added: The New York Post muses on performing Hamlet.

ENJOY . . . Woody Allen, C'est Moi A French interview with Kenneth Branagh about working with Woody Allen.

ENJOY . . . ABC: Woody Allen, Kenneth Branagh, and Celebrity

ENJOY . . . Behind Celebrity's Curtain: An unabashedly editorial film review from the front office.

ENJOY . . . Glimpses of genius. In praise of HAMLET: Kenneth Branagh's film version captures the soul of Hamlet.

Also find on the Hamlet Page an interview with Kenneth Branagh (now with photograph) and an account of the London benefit screening of Hamlet, at which Branagh appeared.

ENJOY . . . The New York Times review of "Discovering Hamlet" a short film which documents Branagh's early take on the stage role under the direction of Sir Derek Jacobi.

ENJOY . . . Kenneth Branagh's interview at his NFT Retrospective, as conducted by the Guardian newspaper. Complete text, and complete Questions and Answers now available.

ENJOY . . . Billy Crystal does DeNiro working on Branagh's Hamlet, and a bit of his version of the Woodman doing the Dane.

ENJOY . . . Alan Rickman in Private LIves with an inexplicable bonus of the transcription of Rickman's appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" promoting the film Galaxy Quest.

ENJOY . . . The films " Onegin" and "The End of the Affair" open with reviews, interviews, and photographs. Fiennes has been searching for Pushkin's anti-hero Eugene Oneginfor some time.


The Good Bits




What's Up: STAGE

What's Up: BOOKS

What's Up: MUSIC

What's Up: FILM

Fictional Characters

What's Up:

Today's Special

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