Wednesday, April 11, 2007

He lays the whole of existence in front of us more vividly than our own imaginations could conjure

Damian Whitworth From The Times April 11, 2007
Examining the abuse of Cressida, as well as Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew and Emilia in Othello , can help us to shape our own lives by avoiding similar mistakes, Dr Maguire believes.
This is Shakespeare that the Oprah generation can grab hold of. In King Lear , the bad bastard Edmund wants to be loved. So does Lear, of course. Cordelia, may have been principled and honest when she refused to compete with her sisters to say who loved their father most. But she lacked the imagination to see the situation from his point of view. Would she have behaved this way if she had seen that beneath the bizarre test lay an old man’s fear of being unloved? Shakespeare seems to suggest that finding forgiveness for those close to you and telling them that you love them can go a long way to salving the world’s ills.
He does not specifically prescribe strategies for navigating life. But he lays the whole of existence in front of us more vividly than our own imaginations could conjure and allows us to see our little lives in the giant characters he has created. The individual can extract whatever self-help lessons he chooses. And if he sees the play, rather than reads it, he’ll feel even better. A night at the theatre watching Romeo and Juliet or Antony and Cleopatra must be worth a lifetime of poring over Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus , however many copies it has sold.
At the very least Shakespeare provides comfort by telling us more beautifully than any other member of our species has managed that we all share the same experiences. And he has words for any occasion. Just last week my father reminded me that nobody does it better than Shakespeare when he read this passage from Cymbeline at my grandmother’s funeral.
“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,/Nor the furious winter’s rages;/Thou thy worldly task hast done,/Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;/Golden lads and girls all must,/As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”

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