Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Shakespeare's Guide to Life

William Shakespeare's work has endured for more than four centuries, predominantly because he was so darned perceptive about life: love, hatred, ambition, jealousy, sorrow, compassion, guilt...the list goes on and on. 

In other words, Shakespeare seems to have had a great insight into what it is to be human. His plays are littered with phrases that still resonate with us, and many of his quotes are as telling about human nature now as they ever were.

So, here are just a few of Shakespeare's life lessons.

Richard II before time did
much wasting

"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me..." 

Richard II, V.v

It's not exactly a cheery thought to be sure, but it's true. Time does waste all of us, it is wasting us right at this very moment, so let's make sure we're not frittering our time away. 

Macbeth with his 'get it over and done with'
school of thought

"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly"
Macbeth, I.vii

I don't often find myself thinking, 'What would Macbeth do?', because, I figure, that way trouble lies. However, when it comes to getting something unpleasant over and done with, I try to keep these words in mind.

For Forrest Gump it was like a box of chocolates;
for Shakespeare a mingled yarn

"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and
ill together.."

All's Well That Ends Well, IV.iii

Along the same lines of Hamlet's, "...nothing either good or bad..." The First Lord in All's Well That Ends Well reminds us that human beings are complicated creatures.

King Lear knows there's a good reason to cry

"When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools..." 
King Lear, IV.vi

It seems as though Shakespeare had quite a bleak view of the world. Accurately bleak, though.

You'd want to make sure someone was steering
that, wouldn't you?

"Fortune brings in some boats that are not steer'd"

Cymberline, IV.iii

In other words, sometimes when your ship comes in - it's just dumb luck! Of course, another way of looking at it is, some people get things they don't necessarily deserve. Either way, it is, indeed, the way the world works.

Of course, Timon knew a thing or two
about being used

"...they love thee not that use thee..."

Timon of Athens, IV.iii

Timon is actually talking to a prostitute. But, the principal is the same, I think, in any walk of life. If you're being used, then the person doing the using, will toss you aside as soon as they're done with you. 

Love is a madness, so Cressida reckoned.

"...to be wise and love
Exceeds man's might..."

Troilus and Cressida, III.ii

Shakespeare makes frequent mention to the blindness and madness of love. Anyone who's ever been a victim to that particularly breed of insanity knows the feeling well. 

Claudio's depressed to say the least

"I am so out of love with life that I will sue to be rid of it."

Measure for Measure, III.i

Yep, definitely bleak! And, that just about sums it up.

These are, of course, just a tiny fragment of the beautifully perceptive phrases that Bill Shakespeare tossed together. If your favorite isn't on my list, why not add it in the comments below? 

And if you'd like to learn more about Shakespeare and his words, check out What's It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon

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