If a brilliant 24thC quantum physicist were to time travel to Shakespeare, the mind being blown over the conversation would be the traveler’s, not the Bard’s. Shakes knew we are energy/spirit and that there are multiple dimensions. We get “thin air” from the Bard and hearing it in the Tempest called to my mind a Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise gets trapped in a 2-D universe.
“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 tow’rs, 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
“WE ARE SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON; AND OUR LITTLE LIFE IS ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP.” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer says we come from NOWHERE (“a sleep”) to NOW HERE and return to NOWHERE (“a sleep”). _The Tempest_ was Shakespeare’s last full play before retiring (though he worked on _Pericles_ afterward and most of that play is attributed to the bard).
There are many lines that make the Bard’s exit not grand but exceptional, graceful, wise and humble. Prospero is the first male character to tackle “forgiveness.” Here’s an excerpt of Prospero’s reply to Ariel (a spirit) who has told Prospero,
Ariel: “That if you now beheld [their sorrow and dismay], your affections
Would become tender.”
Prospero: “Dost thou think so, spirit?”
Ariel: “Mine would, sir, were I human.”
Prospero: “Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’ quick,
Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance.”
Shakespeare’s final four plays are sometimes dismissed (then and now) as too full of “artifice” but I think just as he didn’t confine himself to the constraints of time and used and abused our perception of time to serve purpose and theme, so did he play with even more complex perceptions in the latter plays. For example of time-play, Hamlet is thought of (then and now) as being early 20s or younger but after he has endured a soul-shifting ship ride, we learn Hamlet is 30. Also, Hamlet’s best bud is in his latter 40s if you do the history and math–but what of that? Horatio was chosen to deliver exposition of Hamlet senior. (As I’ve mentioned before, in paraphrasing Harold Bloom, WE are Horatio.) My brain can’t wrap around even time, so my lecture/examples/paragraph end there.
Here’s the epilogue of _The Tempest_.
“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.” -Prospero
Earlier in the play, Prospero has said he would “thence retire me to my Milan, where/ Every third thought shall be my grave.” Though, Shakespeare is everyone and no one throughout his anthology, it is in his Prospero (which he likely acted himself) that we feel we are given the most personal insight into the soul of the playwright who enriched our souls and world so greatly.
I’m going to Shakespeare Dallas this weekend to see _Julius Caesar_ reading Sunday and attend lunch lecture Monday! Woohoo!