Sunday, June 5, 2016

Art to Enchant, Spirit to Enforce

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

   – The Tempest, epilogue, spoken by the wizard Prospero
That’s the first speech that truly enchanted me the first time I read Shakespeare outside of High School. That reading’d be a little over four years back, and I still find delight in it. Since exploring The Tempest back in 2011, I’ve journeyed through nine more of his 37-39 plays (let’s go with 39). That means I’m a hair past a quarter of the way through the Canon.

Well, the bug’s bitten me again, and once I’m through with my current pair of reads (Moby Dick and a book on Economics 101), I’m may try my hand once again with the Bard.

Oh, and I had another insight that’s spurred this re-interest in Shakespeare. I’ve long written here that when I turn 50 (ach! much closer than I’d like it to be, though I still have over a year to go), in an effort to combat mental degradation (and why not?), I would return to the higher mathematics I studied in college physics. Well, I’m not so sure of that, for a variety of reasons.

One is that I see my teenaged nephew, a budding mathematician, how natural it all comes to him. I was never a mathematical natural; always had to work at it, but when I did, I was richly rewarded. Second is, well, perhaps the old synapses, axons and dendrites up in the neural network that makes up me brain, uh, perhaps they may have petrified or atrophied over the past decade. Or two, or three. After all, mathematics is a young man’s game (it’s been said that if you ain’t made a name for yourself in mathematics by age thirty, hang up your Number Two pencil).

It came to me out of the ether that memorizing Shakespeare would be an equally effective way of combating the old specter of dementia. Short speeches, then longer ones. It’d be fun, enlightening, and inspiring. Especially for a writer like myself, for Will is the premier pensmith of the entire English language. It’s been written that he used 29,000 words in his 900,000+ words of plays – and the average American man or woman uses 7,500 to 10,000. That alone gives me chills.

So, sometime mid-June, I think I’m going to crack open a Shakespeare play, then watch it on a library DVD. And, of course, blog about it.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …


Here’s the video of the Tempest epilogue above, featuring the great Michael Hordern, he of the Voice of Frith the rabbit-god in Watership Down

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