Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Will and grace

Hurrah for William Shakespeare on his 444th birthday.

Nothing new to say about the author on whom I've spent more money than any other, apart from to note that, as far as I'm concerned, he still challenges, consoles, inspires and amazes.

He offers us a million opportunities to imagine what it is like to be another person, similar to ourselves, or utterly different. And each imaginative leap can be a journey of grace, taking us to new understanding, compassion and, sometimes, forgiveness.

In the play Sir Thomas More, in which Shakespeare collaborated, there's a moment when More, the King's minister, is charged with quelling the Lonodon mob.

They're demanding that a whole community of migrant workers be summarily deported. More listens and then invites them to imagine:

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

Shakespeare our contemporary? No question.

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