I debated this at first–wondered if my readers would even be interested in Shakespearean wisdom. But then I thought, well everyone ought to! So here it is…
I read King Lear in college. Such a powerful story of hubris followed by a complete unraveling. After all, isn’t a mental breakdown usually an appropriate punishment for excessive pride? Doesn’t it always follow? At least in literature.
I’ve been amazed by Lear’s pomposity, and impressed by his lovely daughter Cordelia’s earnest answer of ‘Yes, father, I love you, but not anymore than I should.’ There’s nothing more drastic to the ears of the grandiose than the good old, honest truth.
There are many memorable lines I could pull from this play. But there was always something about this one that I could relate to my life on a number of different situations.
In Act 4 Scene 1, Edgar, Gloucester’s legitimate is disguised as Poor Tom. Right before the old man leads his recently blinded father onto the stage, Edgar reflects on the horrific nature of situation. He discovers, though, that it’s perhaps not as bad as it could be:
“And worse I may be yet: the worst/is not/So long as we can say ‘This is the worst'” (4.1 29-30).
Being from New Jersey, I can attest that the recent storm, Hurricane Sandy, was perhaps the ‘worst’ our state has ever seen. We lost our favorite vacation spots. Many of us lost heat and power. Some (too many) lost their homes. Some lost family members. Others lost pets. We waited on long lines for gasoline, something, we all learned, we’d taken for granted.
But we’re “Jersey Strong” and resilient. And we’re all aware of the fact that we’re damn lucky we can still say that Sandy was the worst storm in our history. Because if it was truly the worst…we might not be around to even suggest it.
See? We can all learn a thing or two from Shakespeare.
Stay tuned for more next week!