It's been some time since we visited the Bard...
(Poem #126) Our revels now are ended
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
from 'The Tempest', Act IV, Scene i. Have I mentioned before that Shakespeare was a genius? In previous mails I had talked (briefly) about his poetic skills ('Full Fathom Five', Minstrels Poem #16) and his rhetorical construction ('Pardon me, thou... ', Minstrels Poem #48). Today I'd like to highlight another of his many talents - an uncanny ability to venture into highly metaphysical territory without seeming awkward or strained. He does so often enough for it to be noticeable, yet never enough to seem jarring or out of place; indeed, it is this very skill of Shakespeare's which raises his dramatic verse above the level of mere stagecraft and into the realms of poetry. (Not that his verse was ever 'mere' anything - his plays, as plays, stand alone, while his poetry - the sheer beauty of his language - is beyond compare). Time (and its effect on human affairs) always held a fascination for old Willy (witness any number of Sonnets, most of Lear and the second half of Macbeth), and some of his finest flights of poetic fancy have been inspired by it. Some critics have read in this preoccupation a sort of morbid pessimism, but I cannot agree with this diagnosis. As far as I'm concerned, the man was just exploring the human condition to an extent far ahead of his time... the fact that great poetry was distilled out of his quest for 'meaning' is just an added bonus. thomas