Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tragic sense of life

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusky death
Out, out, brief candle-
life's but a walking shadow,
a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, MacBeth

I don't know where I was sitting or what I was thinking when MacBeth's speech came to me. It happens in the drama after he is alerted that Lady MacBeth is dead, and then he says something like "that's all we need now." It's a powerful, tragic speech, which combines the monotony of life in the first lines (petty pace from day to day,) a cumulative effect ("all our yesterdays," fatalism ("to dusky death" "heard no more",) fleeting quality of life ("walking shadow" "hour" "no more",) senselessness ("tale told by an idiot" "signifying nothing") and violence ("sound and fury"), the latter of which the play is especially about. It's ironic also that the player metaphor is used within the play, which is not unusual with the Bard.

Compare with Ecclesiastes:
"all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? ...
The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. ... Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me."

and also:
"And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."

However, Ecclesiastes says eat and drink up and be merry, for life is short. No such small comfort for MacBeth.

I don't know.

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