We become lovers when we see Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet makes us students. The blood of Duncan is upon our hands, with Timon werage against the world, and when Lear wanders out upon the heath the terror of madness touches us. Ours is the white sinlessness of Desdemona, and ours, also, the sin of Iago.
When I turned 18, was the first time that I really started concentrating on politics. And I started doing so because I realized that in order to really create and generate change, it has to come from changing laws... so I started campaigning for Norman Lear's foundation, which was Declare Yourself.
It's difficult for most people to imagine the creative process in tennis. Seemingly it's just an athletic matter of hitting the ball consistently well within the boundaries of the court. That analysis is just as specious as thinking that the difficulty in portraying King Lear on stage is learning all the lines.
In the United States...politics is purged of all menace, all sinister quality, all genuine significance, and stuffed with such gorgeous humors, such inordinate farce that one comes to the end of a campaign with one's ribs loose, and ready for King Lear, or a hanging, or a course of medical journals.
H. L. Mencken
Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different. I was thinking of using as a motto for my book a quotation from King Lear: 'I'll teach you differences'. ... 'You'd be surprised' wouldn't be a bad motto either.
Young screenwriters are always very frustrated when they talk to me. They say, 'How do we get to be a screenwriter?' I say, 'You know what you do? I'll tell you the secret, it's easy: Read 'Hamlet.' You know? Then read it again, and read it again, and read it until you understand it. Read 'King Lear,' and then read 'Othello.'
Most of us are pseudo-scholars... for we are a very large and quite a powerful class, eminent in Church and State, we control the education of the Empire, we lend to the Press such distinction as it consents to receive, and we are a welcome asset at dinner-parties. Pseudo-scholarship is, on its good side, the homage paid by ignorance to learning. It also has an economic side, on which we need not be hard. Most of us must get a job before thirty, or sponge on our relatives, and many jobs can only be got by passing an exam. The pseudo-scholar often does well in examination (real scholars are not much good), and even when he fails he appreciates their inner majesty. They are gateways to employment, they have power to ban and bless. A paper on King Lear may lead somewhere, unlike the rather far-fetched play of the same name. It may be a stepping-stone to the Local Government Board. He does not often put it to himself openly and say, "That's the use of knowing things, they help you to get on." The economic pressure he feels is more often subconscious, and he goes to his exam, merely feeling that a paper on King Lear is a very tempestuous and terrible experience but an intensely real one... As long as learning is connected with earning, as long as certain jobs can only be reached through exams, so long must we take the examination system seriously. If another ladder to employment were contrived, much so-called education would disappear, and no one be a penny the stupider.
Lear, Macbeth. Mercutio "" they live on their own as it were. The newspapers are full of them, if we were only the Shakespeares to see it. Have you ever been in a Police Court? Have you ever watched tradesmen behind their counters? My soul, the secrets walking in the streets! You jostle them at every corner. There's a Polonius in every first-class railway carriage, and as many Juliets as there are boarding-schools. ... How inexhaustibly rich everything is, if you only stick to life.
Walter de La Mare
Lear, Macbeth. Mercutio - they live on their own as it were. The newspapers are full of them, if we were only the Shakespeares to see it. Have you ever been in a Police Court? Have you ever watched tradesmen behind their counters? My soul, the secrets walking in the streets! You jostle them at every corner. There's a Polonius in every first-class railway carriage, and as many Juliets as there are boarding-schools... How inexhaustibly rich everything is, if you only stick to life.
Walter de la Mare
Any idiot would know women's needs are simple. All we want is your basic millionaire brain surgeon criminal lawyer great dancer who pilots his own Lear Jet and owns seafront property. On the other hand, things being what they are today, most of us will settle for a guy who holds down a steady job and isn't carrying an infectious disease.
In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen... Lear goes berserk on a heath but comes out of it for a few brief hours every inch a king. Zaccheus climbs up a sycamore tree a crook and climbs down a saint. Paul sets out a hatchet man for the Pharisees and comes back a fool for Christ.
There may even be a real relation between certain kinds of effectiveness in literature and totalitarianism in politics. But although the fictions are alike ways of finding out about the human world, anti-Semitism is a fiction of escape which tells you nothing about death but projects it onto others; whereas King Lear is a fiction that inescapably involves an encounter with oneself, and the image of one's end. This is one difference; and there is another. We have to distinguish between myths and fictions. Fictions can degenerate into myths whenever they are not consciously held to be fictive. In this sense anti-Semitism is a degenerate fiction, a myth; and Lear is a fiction. Myth operates within the diagrams of ritual, which presupposes total and adequate explanations of things as they are and were; it is a sequence of radically unchangeable gestures. Fictions are for finding things out, and they change as the needs of sense-making change. Myths are the agents of stability, fictions the agents of change. Myths call for absolute, fictions for conditional assent. Myths make sense in terms of a lost order of time, illud tempus as Eliade calls it; fictions, if successful, make sense of the here and now, hoc tempus. It may be that treating literary fictions as myths sounds good just now, but as Marianne Moore so rightly said of poems, 'these things are important not because a / high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are / useful.
I don't remember much about the specifics of the economics courses that I majored in - I apparently internalized the key concepts - but I still remember vividly the thrill of reading 'Don Quixote,' Epictetus, 'The Aeneid,' 'King Lear' and 'Candide,' and how contemporary the stories and ideas in these old and ancient texts struck me.
Daniel S. Loeb
When King Lear dies in act five, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He has written, 'He dies.' No more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential piece of dramatic literature is, 'He dies.' Now I am not asking you to be happy at my leaving but all I ask you to do is to turn the page and let the next story begin. -- Mr. Magorium
Bush has not read enough books to have a developed moral sense. The fewer books you read, the easier it is to become fundamental. In some ways my antiwar stand here is also a stand on anti-literacy. Someone should get G.W. into a reading program, get him to join a book club. Have him read Hamlet, King Lear.
Whatever else the religious Right may be, it is a bonanza for its opponents... Reports of the great terror that is upon us are raising millions of dollars in fund appeals by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, Norman Lear's People for the American Way, and others who claim to believe that the religious Right is the greatest peril to American democracy since Joe McCarthy.
Richard John Neuhaus
Shakespeare carries us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to suggest a wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splendid works which he has created, and which in other hours we extol as a sort of self-existent poetry, take no stronger hold of real nature than the shadow of a passing traveller on the rock. The inspiration which uttered itself in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as good from day to day, for ever.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
'Hollywood maids' are so idiotic. They grin at everything. I told Norman Lear I didn't want to play a maid because of that 'hee-hee/grin-grin' attitude, and he said, 'Who said I wanted that?' He told me he wanted two strong women that are the black and white of the same coin. I said, 'Oh, well - in that case, I'll be right there!'
I'm very happy to be back in touch with a part of myself. It's surreal. For 35 years, I never thought I'd be reunited with the music I wrote during the Creedence Clearwater Revival years. After meeting with Norman Lear, Hal Gaba, and Glen Barros (President of Concord), I'm happy to say that the new Fantasy is very enthusiastic about my body of work. All the people there have been delightful. They are honoring my songs that hold an important place in the history of American music. And, they are honoring me.
Theater roles are written by the great masters. The greatest literature that you can possibly know are the theater roles like King Lear, Hamlet, and all of those great roles. So all you do is you dive into these unchallenged roles and see how far you can get, what kind of accolades you can get, and how good you can be in them. In movie roles, you can actually improve them by knowing a lot about your own stage technique, which helps a great deal in the cinema and how you can project inner humor even though the particular dialogue is not necessarily funny, but you can infuse it with humor.
In high school, we barely brushed against Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, or any of the other so-unserious writers who delight everyone they touch. This was, after all, a very expensive and important school. Instead, I was force-fed a few of Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, although the English needed translation, the broad comedy and wrenching drama were lost, and none of the magnificently dirty jokes were ever explained. (Incidentally, Romeo and Juliet, fully appreciated, might be banned in some U.S. states.) This was the Concordance again, and little more. So we'd read all the lines aloud, resign ourselves to a ponderous struggle, and soon give up the plot completely.
Shakespeare's plays do not present easy solutions. The audience has to decide for itself. King Lear is perhaps the most disturbing in this respect. One of the key words of the whole play is 'Nothing'. When King Lear's daughter Cordelia announces that she can say 'Nothing' about her love for her father, the ties of family love fall apart, taking the king from the height of power to the limits of endurance, reduced to 'nothing' but 'a poor bare forked animal'. Here, instead of 'readiness' to accept any challenge, the young Edgar says 'Ripeness is all'. This is a maturity that comes of learning from experience. But, just as the audience begins to see hope in a desperate and violent situation, it learns that things can always get worse: Who is't can say 'I am at the worst?' ... The worst is not So long as we can say 'This is the worst.' Shakespeare is exploring and redefining the geography of the human soul, taking his characters and his audience further than any other writer into the depths of human behaviour. The range of his plays covers all the 'form and pressure' of mankind in the modern world. They move from politics to family, from social to personal, from public to private. He imposed no fixed moral, no unalterable code of behaviour. That would come to English society many years after Shakespeare's death, and after the tragic hypothesis of Hamlet was fulfilled in 1649, when the people killed the King and replaced his rule with the Commonwealth. Some critics argue that Shakespeare supported the monarchy and set himself against any revolutionary tendencies. Certainly he is on the side of order and harmony, and his writing reflects a monarchic context rather than the more republican context which replaced the monarchy after 1649. It would be fanciful to see Shakespeare as foretelling the decline of the Stuart monarchy. He was not a political commentator. Rather, he was a psychologically acute observer of humanity who had a unique ability to portray his observations, explorations, and insights in dramatic form, in the richest and most exciting language ever used in the English theatre.
The only advice ... that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at the liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions - there we have none.
The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions-there we have none.
I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind. No matter how many times we reopen 'King Lear, ' never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert's father's timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.
If the distinction is not held too rigidly nor pressed too far, it is interesting to think of Shakespeare's chief works as either love dramas or power dramas, or a combination of the two. In his Histories, the poet handles the power problem primarily, the love interest being decidedly incidental. In the Comedies, it is the other way around, overwhelmingly in the lighter ones, distinctly in the graver ones, except in Troilus and Cressida-hardly comedy at all-where without full integration something like a balance is maintained. In the Tragedies both interests are important, but Othello is decidedly a love drama and Macbeth as clearly a power drama, while in Hamlet and King Lear the two interests often alternate rather than blend.
Harold Clarke Goddard
CAPITALIST DREAMS CANNABIS TREES I'M MAD HUNGRY THIS CRACKER NEEDS CHEESE LIKE WHEN THE CAMERA CLICKS FUCK THE REST OF THE ALPHABET I'M STACKING THESE PS I NEED A LOT OF BREAD IT'S LIKE TONY ROTTON SAID IT'S THE QUEEN'S HEADS THAT WE GOT TO GET MOZZARELLA AND RICOTTA LAY THE BREADER ON TOP MATURE CHEDDAR MORE FETA YEAH STEADY WONGA JUMP IN THE LEAR JET OR THE HELICOPTER SIPPING ON THE CRANBERRY VODKA GETTING ON MY DELBOY TROTTER RODNEY, DON'T BE A PLONKER I DON'T NEED TO BE MUCH LONGER SEEING OTHERS LIKE NEO DE NIRO PUT THE CITY ON THE PAYROLL POWER AND INFLUENCE ACCOUNTS OUT IN SWITZERLAND WRIST, NECK, AND MOUTH GLISTENING
Up until relatively recently, creating original characters from scratch wasn't a major part of an author's job description. When Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he didn't invent Aeneas; Aeneas was a minor character in Homer's Odyssey whose unauthorized further adventures Virgil decided to chronicle. Shakespeare didn't invent Hamlet and King Lear; he plucked them from historical and literary sources. Writers weren't the originators of the stories they told; they were just the temporary curators of them. Real creation was something the gods did. All that has changed. Today the way we think of creativity is dominated by Romantic notions of individual genius and originality, and late-capitalist concepts of intellectual property, under which artists are businesspeople whose creations are the commodities they have for sale.
Let the preacher tell the truth. Let him make audible the silence of the news of the world with the sound turned off so that in the silence we can hear the tragic truth of the Gospel, which is that the world where God is absent is a dark and echoing emptiness; and the comic truth of the Gospel, which is that it is into the depths of his absence that God makes himself present in such unlikely ways and to such unlikely people that old Sarah and Abraham and maybe when the time comes even Pilate and Job and Lear and Henry Ward Beecher and you and I laugh till the tears run down our cheeks. And finally let him preach this overwhelming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have.
When art is made new, we are made new with it. We have a sense of solidarity with our own time, and of psychic energies shared and redoubled, which is just about the most satisfying thing that life has to offer. 'If that is possible, ' we say to ourselves, 'then everything is possible'; a new phase in the history of human awareness has been opened up, just as it opened up when people first read Dante, or first heard Bach's 48 preludes and fugues, or first learned from Hamlet and King Lear(/I> that the complexities and contradictions of human nature could be spelled out on the stage. This being so, it is a great exasperation to come face to face with new art and not make anything of it. Stared down by something that we don't like, don't understand and can't believe in, we feel personally affronted, as if our identity as reasonably alert and responsive human beings had been called into question. We ought to be having a good time, and we aren't. More than that, an important part of life is being withheld from us; for if any one thing is certain in this world it is that art is there to help us live, and for no other reason.
It's cruelty that gets to me. Still, it's important to read about cruelty. 'Why is it important?' Because when you read about it, it's easier to recognize. That was always the hardest thing in the refugee camps-to hear the stories of the people who had been raped or mutilated or forced to watch a parent or a sister or a child be raped or killed. It's very hard to come face-to-face with such cruelty. But people can be cruel in lots of ways, some very subtle. I think that's why we all need to read about it. I think that's one of the amazing things about Tennessee Williams's plays. He was so attuned to cruelty-the way Stanley treats Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. It starts with asides and looks and put-downs. There are so many great examples from Shakespeare-when Goneril torments King Lear or the way Iago speaks to Othello. And what I love about Dickens is the way he presents all types of cruelty. You need to learn to recognize these things right from the start. Evil almost always starts with small cruelties.
I do not think there is a demonstrative proof (like Euclid) of Christianity, nor of the existence of matter, nor of the good will and honesty of my best and oldest friends. I think all three are (except perhaps the second) far more probable than the alternatives. The case for Christianity in general is well given by Chesterton... As to why God doesn't make it demonstratively clear; are we sure that He is even interested in the kind of Theism which would be a compelled logical assent to a conclusive argument? Are we interested in it in personal matters? I demand from my friend trust in my good faith which is certain without demonstrative proof. It wouldn't be confidence at all if he waited for rigorous proof. Hang it all, the very fairy-tales embody the truth. Othello believed in Desdemona's innocence when it was proved: but that was too late. Lear believed in Cordelia's love when it was proved: but that was too late. 'His praise is lost who stays till all commend.' The magnanimity, the generosity which will trust on a reasonable probability, is required of us. But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why, then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn't deserve. Your error would even so be more interesting and important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?
We read the pagan sacred books with profit and delight. With myth and fable we are ever charmed, and find a pleasure in the endless repetition of the beautiful, poetic, and absurd. We find, in all these records of the past, philosophies and dreams, and efforts stained with tears, of great and tender souls who tried to pierce the mystery of life and death, to answer the eternal questions of the Whence and Whither, and vainly sought to make, with bits of shattered glass, a mirror that would, in very truth, reflect the face and form of Nature's perfect self. These myths were born of hopes, and fears, and tears, and smiles, and they were touched and colored by all there is of joy and grief between the rosy dawn of birth, and death's sad night. They clothed even the stars with passion, and gave to gods the faults and frailties of the sons of men. In them, the winds and waves were music, and all the lakes, and streams, and springs, -the mountains, woods and perfumed dells were haunted by a thousand fairy forms. They thrilled the veins of Spring with tremulous desire; made tawny Summer's billowed breast the throne and home of love; filled Autumns arms with sun-kissed grapes, and gathered sheaves; and pictured Winter as a weak old king who felt, like Lear upon his withered face, Cordelia's tears. These myths, though false, are beautiful, and have for many ages and in countless ways, enriched the heart and kindled thought. But if the world were taught that all these things are true and all inspired of God, and that eternal punishment will be the lot of him who dares deny or doubt, the sweetest myth of all the Fable World would lose its beauty, and become a scorned and hateful thing to every brave and thoughtful man.
Robert G. Ingersoll
What, then, can Shakespearean tragedy, on this brief view, tell us about human time in an eternal world? It offers imagery of crisis, of futures equivocally offered, by prediction and by action, as actualities; as a confrontation of human time with other orders, and the disastrous attempt to impose limited designs upon the time of the world. What emerges from Hamlet is-after much futile, illusory action-the need of patience and readiness. The 'bloody period' of Othello is the end of a life ruined by unseasonable curiosity. The millennial ending of Macbeth, the broken apocalypse of Lear, are false endings, human periods in an eternal world. They are researches into death in an age too late for apocalypse, too critical for prophecy; an age more aware that its fictions are themselves models of the human design on the world. But it was still an age which felt the human need for ends consonant with the past, the kind of end Othello tries to achieve by his final speech; complete, concordant. As usual, Shakespeare allows him his tock; but he will not pretend that the clock does not go forward. The human perpetuity which Spenser set against our imagery of the end is represented here also by the kingly announcements of Malcolm, the election of Fortinbras, the bleak resolution of Edgar. In apocalypse there are two orders of time, and the earthly runs to a stop; the cry of woe to the inhabitants of the earth means the end of their time; henceforth 'time shall be no more.' In tragedy the cry of woe does not end succession; the great crises and ends of human life do not stop time. And if we want them to serve our needs as we stand in the middest we must give them patterns, understood relations as Macbeth calls them, that defy time. The concords of past, present, and future towards which the soul extends itself are out of time, and belong to the duration which was invented for angels when it seemed difficult to deny that the world in which men suffer their ends is dissonant in being eternal. To close that great gap we use fictions of complementarity. They may now be novels or philosophical poems, as they once were tragedies, and before that, angels. What the gap looked like in more modern times, and how more modern men have closed it, is the preoccupation of the second half of this series.
When he was in college, a famous poet made a useful distinction for him. He had drunk enough in the poet's company to be compelled to describe to him a poem he was thinking of. It would be a monologue of sorts, the self-contemplation of a student on a summer afternoon who is reading Euphues. The poem itself would be a subtle series of euphuisms, translating the heat, the day, the student's concerns, into symmetrical posies; translating even his contempt and boredom with that famously foolish book into a euphuism. The poet nodded his big head in a sympathetic, rhythmic way as this was explained to him, then told him that there are two kinds of poems. There is the kind you write; there is the kind you talk about in bars. Both kinds have value and both are poems; but it's fatal to confuse them. In the Seventh Saint, many years later, it had struck him that the difference between himself and Shakespeare wasn't talent - not especially - but nerve. The capacity not to be frightened by his largest and most potent conceptions, to simply (simply!) sit down and execute them. The dreadful lassitude he felt when something really large and multifarious came suddenly clear to him, something Lear-sized yet sonnet-precise. If only they didn't rush on him whole, all at once, massive and perfect, leaving him frightened and nerveless at the prospect of articulating them word by scene by page. He would try to believe they were of the kind told in bars, not the kind to be written, though there was no way to be sure of this except to attempt the writing; he would raise a finger (the novelist in the bar mirror raising the obverse finger) and push forward his change. Wailing like a neglected ghost, the vast notion would beat its wings into the void. Sometimes it would pursue him for days and years as he fled desperately. Sometimes he would turn to face it, and do battle. Once, twice, he had been victorious, objectively at least. Out of an immense concatenation of feeling, thought, word, transcendent meaning had come his first novel, a slim, pageant of a book, tombstone for his slain conception. A publisher had taken it, gingerly; had slipped it quietly into the deep pool of spring releases, where it sank without a ripple, and where he supposes it lies still, its calm Bodoni gone long since green. A second, just as slim but more lurid, nightmarish even, about imaginary murders in an imaginary exotic locale, had been sold for a movie, though the movie had never been made. He felt guilt for the producer's failure (which perhaps the producer didn't feel), having known the book could not be filmed; he had made a large sum, enough to finance years of this kind of thing, on a book whose first printing was largely returned.