A Thing of Beauty

I have always been afraid of The Feeling of Beauty. For those who do not know  it is one of the guiding principles of Michael Chekhov, one of his ‘Four Brothers’ and at the core of what we need to learn to be artists. 

I have always been afraid of it because the word Beauty is very much more subjective than the other principles of Ease, Form and the Whole. It is so loaded. Who is to say who or what is beautiful? Is physical beauty something to be sneered at? Is spiritual beauty the only thing that is worth anything? It appears to be a minefield. So, until last week, I have shied away from exploring it in class. I have always said to students, “oh there is also the Feeling of Beauty,” and sidestepped it. Thats easy to do with the Chekhov Technique because there are always so many extraordinary things to explore. But in consultation with my wonderfully supportive Chekhov teachers group,  who gave me some brilliant thoughts about it, my class embarked on some powerful explorations, statements and feelings..

“ I felt when I found some beauty in my chair, that I realised all the people that I was connected with through it, the others who sat in it, the people who made it, it connected me……” 

And as always when you commit to something in this extraordinary Chekhov work you take on that quality yourself. You become beautiful as you tell us about it. This is quite magical to see, a transformation. 

The feeling of Beauty requires a serious commitment and that is hard for us. When I was a young adult I was very suspicious of people who were constantly pointing at flowers and birds in wonder when we went out for a walk. Now I am one of those people myself. I didn’t trust beauty,  as if it was too sickly sweet and positive to have any reality in my life. I think this is a common attitude. Lately, especially since the lockdown and since I live in the country I have become much more aware of the world around me. The Chekhov work has helped to bring that about too because it is such a holistic way of working. It is all too easy for us to only see the harsh realities of life or the fantasies peddled to us in the media as if these things are how life is in totality. The Feeling of Beauty is not a cop-out. It is simply part of life. 

One of the highlights, when actors performed their short pieces from Macbeth, provided another fabulous insight. They were doing “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold” , the short soliloquy when Lady Macbeth is nervous, excited, on edge as the murder of Duncan is being committed. Through exploring this speech through a Feeling of Beauty, something extraordinary emerged. We are seeing her very final moments of a kind of innocence, even though she is already an accomplice. it is almost the pinnacle of her expectations. In its way, it is beautiful, naive, tragic.

As someone said in class, “I felt that Beauty is something which is going to be snatched away or evaporate at any moment. and that is part of its Beauty…”

Now taking bookings for Principles: Tempo, Pauses and Directions. email chekhovtpi@gmail.com. starting Friday October 9th for four weeks 4.30 -6.00

2 thoughts on “A Thing of Beauty

  1. Tony Hegarty

    I like this Max and it makes me think of how we split off our views of beauty: the introverted attitude (I wonder could the Chekhovian call it an “atmosphere of mind”) is to look inward and see, as you point out, the spiritual beauty and to be sceptical of the outward beauty of the senses. The extroverted attitude is to look outward and remain sceptical of any inner spirituality. Either split can lead to an alienation and a depression; an interuption of the energy we need to live. It seems to me that exploring Chekhov technique can be a therapy for the healing of this opposition between inner and outer; speaking the lines for the first time from the soul “declares” a participation between the two. The Psalmist says: “Rescue me, God my helper”: from what does he want to be rescued? From alienation: and then he says, “my mouth shall declare your praise”. What is it to praise in this way? It is to know the beauty of the reconciliation of the two aspects, inner and outer. It is Jacob after his struggle with the angel.

    1. maxhafler Post author

      I don’t think in Chekhovian terms it would be “an atmosphere of mind” rather a feeling of closing energy or at the very least considering energy as something that moves through and behind you ; I would suggest the extrovert sends their energy out and forward as I agree that if we are stuck in any pattern there is danger because in the end some aspect of life always comes to disrupt it and attempt to restore balance. besides which , energy is always moving back and forth,ebbing and flowing like the tide,or even closer to home, like the breath. Chekhov Technique, though not a therapy, can have that kind of healing result because it teaches you experientially to understand and feel how energy works.


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