Monday 22 April 2024

Hal Syndrome - performative non-remembering

In the plays, Henry IV parts i and ii, Prince Hal hangs out with some low lifes, the most memorable of whom is Falstaff. This is in its own way, scandalous. Hal's father (Henry IV) is not happy about it. Then Henry IV dies, so Hal becomes king - Henry V. Falstaff thinks that the old relationship will continue but when he presents himself to Hal, Hal says, 'I know thee not old man.'
It's a fascinating moment of what we might call today 'performative non-remembering'. That's to say, for the knockabout, boozy Hal to transform himself into the calculating monarch, he has to show ('performative') that he doesn't 'know' Falstaff and that way of life. It's a form of censorship through staged silence.
So in amongst all the other syndromes, principles, effects, traits, tropes, 'razors' that people talk of these days I'm going to suggest Hal Syndrome. This is any event, story, occasion that grabs the news, preoccupies people, is apparently important but then when the situation changes, it's no longer news, it's not important. In other words there is 'performative non-remembering'.
I'm sure you can all think of examples from politics, culture, your own personal lives. It's happened to me in the last couple of weeks (that's to say the performative non-remembering), and so I needed a name for it.
I give you Hal Syndrome.