A funeral is theatre. Yes? The protagonist is a dead person in a box who hogs centre stage and utters not a word of dialogue throughout. Unusual theatre as theatre goes, but theatre all the same, I think we can assert. To what genre does it belong? Tragedy, of course (for all that, in conventional tragedy, the protagonist waits till the end to die). But comedy, too, in many cases. Tragi-comedy. Tears and laughter, the essence of a good funeral. The essence of a good tragedy, too, come to think of it.
Woe betide anyone who tries to upstage the star of the show.
People delivering a tribute can easily fall into this trap. They talk about the dead person as someone who orbited their own life. This is how I felt about him/her; this is what he/she meant to me, did to me, said to me; I remember that time when… Me, me, I, I, me, me. Audiences don’t like that.
It puts one in mind of the occasion when a bowler, to his great glee, dismissed WG Grace first ball. WG refused to budge. In the face of the bowler’s remonstration, WG responded stonily: “They came to see me bat, not to see you bowl.”
A funeral is for the dead person and it is for those who mourn. But it is about the dead person and the dead person only. Minor characters are allowed, of course, but in peripheral roles only.
The other day I read a tribute which seemed to break this rule but which, paradoxically, did precisely the opposite. It was delivered at his mother’s funeral by blogger Abra Cadaver (how we wish we’d thought of that!). It is beautifully written and I commend it to you. It really is as good as it gets.
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