Monday, February 26, 2007

More from John Wain

I find John Wain’s understanding of the Christian background to Shakespeare’s plays very good – almost to the point where I wonder if Wain isn’t a Christian himself. I’ve just seen on Wikipedia this note: "Wain's tutor at Oxford had been C.S. Lewis. He encountered, but did not feel he belonged to, Lewis's literary circle, the Inklings. Wain took literature as seriously as the Inklings did, and believed as they did in the primacy of literature as communication, but as a modern realist writer he shared neither their conservative social beliefs nor their propensity for fantasy."
That may account for more than a little!

I found another interesting section in his book on Shakespeare that I’ve been quoting from. He’s talking about King Lear, at this point.

‘All this titanic expenditure of effort and suffering to teach two stupid old men how to love? Yes: and rightly; for the colossal extravagance of means, the cosmic excess of upheaval and waste, celebrates the range and importance of the nature of man. At such time, even the supreme powers of the universe (whatever and wherever they may be) humble themselves before man, and bow to him, for

Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,
The gods themselves throw incense.

That line reminds me of another, in Love’s Labours Lost, where the character is talking about the effect of women on men:

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

There’s something in Shakespeare’s view of human beings that indicates he feels ‘the gods’ are often in awe of these two-pronged creations.

Drawing of Lear by Boardman Robinson

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