The Mysticism of Shakespeare

I’ve still been spending time with Lear this weekend. With Shakespeare’s language and the rich stories. And I am chastising myself for the arrogance in wondering… why is so much left unsaid?

An example: Edgar – as Poor Tom – meets Gloucester and hears his father say that if he could just touch Edgar’s face again it would be as though he had his sight again. So why doesn’t Edgar reveal himself?

The Tragedy of King Lear wasn’t written as a closet play, and I wonder then if the audience – groundlings or otherwise – were able to get under all the psychological machinations in Edgar’s head to make sense of this moment, in the moment, as the lines were spoken, passing quickly over the heads of the orange-sellers and the old women bitching about their sore feet? Did anyone care? Or am I just thicker than the average Elisabethan?

I’m not interested in the question of authorship that has been recently staged in a “court of law” in London. I think it’s funny that we should care so much. And that maybe it is more about a projection of our very real personal fears of insignificance, than an actual interest in whether a single person wrote the work.

There’s never been a serious question of the originality of the stories. Of any story, if you want to take it that far. And as for the language, I very much love the idea that it began with a sketch of a script that morphed naturally in the mouth of a performer, and then again in memory before it was recorded in text. Maybe adapting Shakespeare isn’t sacrilege at all, but the best way to keep communication between us and “them” alive.

But the question remains. Are we all just thicker now? How many of us get the “gist” of it and take the rest (literally) on faith and fake it.

Are we missing the zeitgeist of the age that filled in the bits that are mysterious to us? I took a workshop once with a now-famous and very Shakespeare-associated actress whom I adore. I asked her what a particular word meant. She said she didn’t know, but that the passage was about…

There’s the rub.

There went the timer.

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  1. Oh, I love that you are pondering this question of the unsaid, the between-the-lines part of drama, of poetry, as am I in my own fumbling way. The effect of great writing, I think, is to engender questions, not to give answers. Writing that gives answers is mind-closing, it is propaganda, or dogma.

  2. Read your post with great interest as I just finished reading James Shapiro’s ‘1599:A year in the life of William Shakespeare.’ Are we missing the zeitgeist of the age that filled in the bits that are mysterious to us? – an excellent question. The book provided so much context to several plays- quite fascinating.

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