Monday, September 5, 2016

William Shakespeare (1564-1616 AD) Magic and Illusion in The Tempest


Journal Éveillé is an informal exploration of awakened mind in the art of poetry....

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William Shakespeare (1564- 1616 AD)....... English poetplaywright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.
Shakespeare's Sonnets is the title of a collection of 154 sonnets by William Shakespeare, which covers themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man; the last 28 to a woman.
The sonnets were first published in a 1609 quarto with the full stylised title: SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS. Never before Imprinted. (although sonnets 138 and 144 had previously been published in the 1599 miscellany The Passionate Pilgrim). The quarto ends with "A Lover's Complaint", a narrative poem of 47 seven-line stanzas written in rhyme royal – though some scholars have argued convincingly against Shakespeare's authorship of the poem.


“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.”

― PROSPERO....The Tempest....Act 4, Scene 1

"Prospero is central to The Tempest’s narrative...... Prospero generates the plot of the play almost single-handedly, as his various schemes, spells, and manipulations all work as part of his grand design to achieve the play’s happy ending. Watching Prospero work through The Tempest is like watching a dramatist create a play, building a story from material at hand and developing his plot so that the resolution brings the world into line with his idea of goodness and justice. Many critics and readers of the play have interpreted Prospero as a surrogate for Shakespeare, enabling the audience to explore firsthand the ambiguities and ultimate wonder of the creative endeavor.....His possession and use of magical knowledge renders him extremely powerful and not entirely sympathetic...."....


"I like your silence, it the more shows off
Your wonder..."


The sonnets are almost all constructed from three quatrains, which are four-line stanzas, and a final couplet composed in iambic pentameter. This is also the meter used extensively in Shakespeare's plays.

The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. Sonnets using this scheme are known as Shakespearean sonnets. Often, the beginning of the third quatrain marks the volta ("turn"), or the line in which the mood of the poem shifts, and the poet expresses a revelation or epiphany.

Iambic pentameter is a commonly used type of metrical line in traditional English poetry and verse drama. The term describes the rhythm that the words establish in that line, which is measured in small groups of syllables called "feet". The word "iambic" refers to the type of foot that is used, known as the iamb, which in English is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet".

Iambic rhythms come relatively naturally in English. Iambic pentameter is the most common meter in English poetry; it is used in many of the major English poetic forms, including blank verse, the heroic couplet, and some of the traditional rhymed stanza forms. William Shakespeare used iambic pentameter in his plays and sonnets.


"Harold Bloom's book, "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human," to see if I could detect multiple voices in some of the works, as Rylance suggests.....Even in the comedies, the works reveal a number of Zen-like meditations on the "seed bearing powers of nature"(Measure for Measure), that left me wondering if there's been any Buddhist analysis of Shakespeare's work. Google turned up a plethora of essays comparing Hamlet's despair to the Eastern experience of Satori, then this ... a full analysis of the works with praise from no lesser expert than Harold Bloom: "Whacking Buddha: The Mysterious World of Shakespeare and Buddhism.".....

"Whacking Buddha: The Mysterious world of Shakespeare and Buddhism" (2005) Mark Lamonica
Whacking Buddha is a unique comparison of the works of William Shakespeare and the world of Buddhism....The author, Mark Lamonica, is willing to argue that Shakespeare knew of the Buddha and his teachings.....

" interesting coincidental illustration of the Eightfold Noble Path from Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Polonius provides instruction on living a good life. This excerpt is from the book Whacking Buddha: The Mysterious World of Shakespeare and Buddhism, by Mark Lamonica, with Patrick McCulley (by way of Tricycle, Winter 2005):
There are eight precepts in Polonius's speech, interchangeable (depending on how you interpret them) with the Buddha's Eightfold Path:
Polonius: There; my blessing with thee! And these few precepts in thy memory see thou character.
1. Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportion'd thought his act. (right thought)
2. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. (right mindfulness)
3. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, / Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel, / But do not dull thy palm with entertainment / Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. (right livelihood)
4. Beware / of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, / Bear't the opposed may beware of thee. (right action)
5. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. (right speech)
6. Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment. (right concentration)
7. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, / But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; / For the apparel oft proclaims the man, / And they in France of the best rank and station / Are of a most select and generous chief in that. (right effort) 8. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, / For loan oft loses both itself and friend, / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. / This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man. (right understanding)


"One of Shakespeare’s abiding themes is what happens to people when they lose the props they have relied on for their sense of identity. How do they crumble? What is revealed by their disintegration? There is much more to say about Richard’s fall, but I want to pause to make a connection with Buddhism.
Selfhood, identity and beliefs were central concerns for the Buddha. We construct a sense of selfhood, he said, by taking refuge in three great delusions (viparyasas or ‘topsy-turvy views’). We tell ourselves that the things we experience are permanent when all we know is impermanent; that they are substantial when everything we examine turns out, on closer inspection, to be insubstantial; and that they are capable of giving us true satisfaction when the truth of our lives includes suffering and an unavoidable sense of unsatisfactoriness. The driving force behind these delusions, the Buddha said, is craving; and the process that allows us to believe them is the construction of beguiling yet false views (ditthis). These views present themselves as concepts and ideas, but their intellectual content is tied to emotions. In the Brahmajala Sutta the Buddha enumerates 62 such wrong views and says that, at root, each one is merely ‘the feeling of those who do not know and do not see … the agitation and vacillation of those who are immersed in craving.’ These views concern religious beliefs, but the same forces guide secular beliefs and political philosophies.
That returns us to Shakespeare and Richard II, which systematically deconstructs the beliefs surrounding kingship. More important than the story is the experience of Richard himself. He asks himself, what is kingship if it can be transferred so simply and, more acutely, what is he. As he watches his power dissolve, he indulges a distinctly Buddhist fantasy of renouncing worldly life:

"The king shall be contented: must he lose
The name of king? o’ God’s name, let it go:
I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave;

Nothing comes of that impulse because it evades his emotional attachment to his role – and it also ignores political reality. Beneath it lies Richard’s perplexity at the dissolution of his position; and beneath that is the question, ‘If my identity can change so swiftly, who am I?’ He toys with the idea of renouncing identity altogether:-

‘Make me, that nothing have, with nothing grieved’,

But his real emotion is amazed bafflement, which he dramatises by calling for a mirror and asking, as he gazes at his reflection:

Was this the face that faced so many follies,
And was at last out-faced by Bolingbroke?
A brittle glory shineth in this face:
As brittle as the glory is the face;
(Dashes the glass against the ground)
For there it is, crack’d in a hundred shivers."

That’s a vivid image of a man discovering anatta – the lack of a fixed selfhood."


Shakespeare: English or British?....."The union of the two crowns of England and Scotland, dynastically achieved with the accession of James in 1603, but politically and legally established only a century later.... Shakespeare’s writing career straddles, and reflects on, a turbulent period of transition from an England under the sign of Rome — dismantled by Henry VIII in 1534 — to an England under the sign of Britain — willed by James I in 1603 but politically and legally achieved only in 1707....Shakespeare...apart from the histories, they are more often than not located outside England....Shakespeare’s vignettes of the English are not flattering: in The Merchant of Venice Baron Falconbridge is a monolingual ‘dumb show’, dressed up in a ridiculous ensemble of foreign fashions with nowhere to go; in Hamlet the English are accounted as mad as the eponymous hero; in Othello they are ironically eulogised as Europe’s drinking champions; and in The Tempest, they are, again ironically, portrayed as uncharitable consumers of exhibits of exotic, preferably dead, ‘others’.....The one comedy located in England, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is undoubtedly concerned with the character of England and the English. But if it includes a celebration of an inclusive, heterogeneous community, there is also exposure of the exclusions and internal divisions generated by a narrow class-inflected ideology of the English — epitomised in the emergent, protestant, bourgeois aspiration to a normative linguistic ‘King’s English’, which Shakespeare evokes here only to subject it to ironic interrogation."

'Shakespeare, neither simply English nor British' WILLY MALEY and MARGARET TUDEAU-CLAYTON


Northern New Mexico

September 2016


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