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Posts tagged "Shakespeare"

The Tempest of Ancestry.com

The Tempest of Ancestry.com

I can talk to just about anyone about just about anything. Gallbladder surgery. Grandchildren’s precociousness. Train schedules. Weather patterns. But, I do have one achilles’ heel: ancestry narratives. As soon as someone starts talking about their third great-grandfather’s cousin twice removed, and how that person fought in the battle of Waterloo, my eyes glaze over […]

Jesus Christ the Pelican Mother

Here at Mbird HQ, sometimes you get an advance copy of a book from a publisher and you’re not exactly thrilled about opening it. This one, though, is an exception. It is a prayer book from the days of Shakespeare, written by layman (and playwright) Thomas Dekker. The book is divided into four parts, each part a “bird,” or form of prayer, flying from Noah’s Ark. The notion of the Ark as the human body/experience is a powerful one. This is Dekker’s introduction to his third bird, The Pelican. You can pre-order the book here.

The third bird that I call out of Noah’s ark is the Pelican. The nature of the Pelican is to peck her own bosom and with the drops of her blood to feed her young ones. Christ, the Son of God, is the Pelican whose blood was shed to feed us. The physician made a medicine of his own body to cure us. Look upon him well, and behold his wounds bleeding, his head bowed down (as if to kiss us), his very sides opened (as if to show how his heart loved us), his arms stretched out to their length (as if to embrace us). And judge by all these if Christ be not our truest Pelican.

He who was King of Heaven and Earth suffered his brow to wear a crown of thorns. He received wounds that are our health. He tasted the bitterness of death that is our salvation—what Pelican can do more for her young ones?

Our souls were spotted: Sin had pawned them, sin had lost them, sin had made them foul. All the medicine in the world could not purge our corruption, all the fountains in the world could not wash our spots, all the gold and silver on earth could not redeem our forfeitures, all the kings under heaven could not pay our ransoms. Nothing could free us from captivity but to make Christ a prisoner. Nothing could give us life but the heavenly Pelican’s death.

The Only Ones Who Can Tell the Truth

Two weeks before her death, Simone Weil—semi-Catholic philosopher, hunger-striker, political activist—wrote a letter to her parents about the source of truth in Shakespeare:

“There is a class of people in this world who have fallen into the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, and who are deprived not only of all social consideration but also, in everybody’s opinion, of the specific human dignity, reason itself—and these are the only people who, in fact, are able to tell the truth. All the others lie.”

For Weil, the truthful characters are the fools. Neither protagonists nor antagonists, the fools are the outcasts, the supporting roles, the ones for whom no ulterior motives can cloud their eyes. The real tragedy, according to Weil, is not the death of the entire cast, but rather that no one would listen to the fool.

dumb-and-dumber-2“In Lear it is striking. Even Kent and Cordelia attenuate, mitigate, soften, and veil the truth; and unless they are forced to choose between telling it and telling a downright lie, they manoeuvre to evade it. What makes the tragedy extreme is the fact that because the fools possess no academic titles or episcopal dignities and because no one is aware that their sayings deserve the slightest attention—everybody being convinced a priori of the contrary, since they are fools—their expression of truth is not even listened to. Everybody, including Shakespeare’s readers and audiences … is unaware that what they say is true. And not satirically or humorously true, but simply the truth. Pure unadulterated true—luminous, profound and essential.

Pardon's the Word to All: Forgiving Billy Shakespeare

Pardon’s the Word to All: Forgiving Billy Shakespeare

A stunning essay appeared on The Millions last week, Stephen Akey’s “Shakespeare as God,” which casts a light (pun intended) on a couple of The Bard’s lesser-known “late romances,” e.g. The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline. Now, before you glaze over, know that I hadn’t read or seen them either. They are not exactly first on […]

Shakespeare Thursday: Sonnet 27

Weary with toil I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind when body’s work’s expired;
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo, thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

W.H. Auden on Accidental Love and the Difference Between Pardon and Forgiveness

W.H. Auden on Accidental Love and the Difference Between Pardon and Forgiveness

From the great poet’s essay “The Prince’s Dog,” which can be found his invaluable collection, The Dyer’s Hand. Wystan is reflecting on Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” specifically in reference to Angelo (who is forgiven by Isabella but pardoned by the Duke). Of course, the insights transcend their context: The one who forgives must be in […]

Shakespeare Thursday: Sonnet 79

Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decayed,
And my sick muse doth give another place.
I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen,
Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behaviour; beauty he doth give,
And found it in thy cheek: he can afford
No praise to thee but what in thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth say,
Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay.

Shakespeare Thursday: Sonnet 76

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why, with the time, do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent;
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love, still telling what is told.