The Most Pleasant and Delectable Questions of Love (The Unabridged Original English Translation)

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If anyone from whom I have inadvertently taken a suggestion should chance to see these pages and feel aggrieved at the lack of a footnote containing his name, let him read the first chapter of A Pluralistic Universe where William James inters beyond possible resurrection the practice of embalming every scholarly fly that has fallen into the scholarly amber by dedicating to him the tombstone of a separate footnote. Shakespeare, above everybody, is too big to be owned.

Let us give up staking out claims on him. But if I omit detailed acknowledgments to Shakespearean critics and scholars, there is another deeper kind of indebtedness which I wish not only to acknowledge but to stress: namely, to those recent explorers in the realm of the unconscious among the wisest of whom are Samuel Butler, William James, and Carl G. Jung not to mention such poetic predecessors of theirs as Blake and Emerson.

Those readers who are familiar with the works of these men will understand what I mean and perceive how profound is my debt to them And no less profound, if less apparent or traceable, have been my obligations in this connection to other figures in world literature from Laotse and the. Greek dramatists to Dante and Chaucer. Chaucer, for example, set me to analyzing dreams long before I had ever heard of Freud.

Psychology in our day has been doing its best to catch up with what is already implicit in the works of such men.

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Only very ingenuous persons will think that the wise men of the ages did not know of the existence of the unconscious mind because they did not call it by that name or formulate its activities in twentieth-century terms. Harold C. Goddard died without naming his book, and the title was given by the publisher.

C hapter I. C adwal and P olydore.

Shakespeare is like life. There are almost as many ways of taking him as there are ways of living. From the child lost in one of his stories as retold by Charles and Mary Lamb, to the old man turning to his works for fortitude and vision, every age finds in them what it needs.


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The lawyer believes he must have been a lawyer, the musician a musician, the Catholic a Catholic, the Protestant a Protestant. Never was there a more protean genius. Whether his dramas should be taken as plays or as literature has been disputed. But surely they should be taken as both. Acted, or seen on the stage, they disclose things hidden to the reader.

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Read, they reveal what no actor or theater can convey. And how many ways of reading them there are!

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Not merely that each fresh voice makes them unique. The lover, the student, the teacher, the scholar, the director, the actor—every one of them finds something that the others miss, until we begin to wonder how many Shakespeares there were. I do not refer to the man Shakespeare, though he too is variously held to have been everything from a shrewd businessman to a dreamer and mystic—or even a myth in the sense that someone else wrote his works under his name.

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I refer to the Shakespeare we find in the plays. There at least is the playwright, the dramatist, the psychologist, the thinker, the humorist, the prophet, and the poet—to name no others. In the face of all this variety it would be interesting to get hold of Shakespeare and ask him how he would prefer to have his plays taken. As it happens, there is a passage in one of them that may give us a clue as to what his answer to this very question might have been. They are as rugged and lovely a pair of boys as the mountains they live among, both of them intelligent, both brimming with vitality.

But Shakespeare distinguishes them sharply. The elder, Polydore, formerly Guiderius, is the more objective and active in temperament; the younger, Cadwal, once Arviragus, the more imaginative. They listen in character. Strains his young nerves, and puts himself in posture That acts my words. The reaction of the younger brother, Cadwal, Belarius describes more briefly. He, he says,. Neither youth, in other words, is a mere passive receptacle for the narrative. Each participates in, contributes to it. But how differently! The elder acts it out, spirit and body combining to be the story and its hero.

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The younger re-creates it imaginatively, striking life into it by revealing his individual reaction to it. Anyone understands the impulse to act out a story. It may be observed in any alert child.

It is essentially an impulse toward objectification, realization, an urge to translate the language of words into the language of intonation, gesture, and action in the widest sense. If the story itself is oral, and well told, the vocal part of the translation may be more than begun by the narrator, and, if vividly put, there will be incipient gestures and fire in the eye. But it is left to the actor to translate with his whole body, and as actor the closer his rendering to the original the better.


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His spirits fly out into the story and identify themselves with it. But translation is rarely creation, and there is a step beyond it.

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There is nothing that makes a story come to life like linking it with the experience of the moment. We all remember some familiar tale, some proverb or maxim long accepted as true, that one day suddenly lighted up what was happening with such vividness that we realized we had never understood it till that instant. A dead truth had become a living one. I think of an almost absurd example.

It concerns a little boy who might have been Cadwal at an earlier age. He had been gently reprimanded by his aunt for raiding the cookie jar. But if Jesus could have overheard, would not his face have lighted up with a smile, and would he not have admitted that this must indeed have been exactly what he had in mind without realizing it? Extreme examples are the most illuminating.

Take one more. Genius is like childhood, and it too can take liberties with Scripture. It is not often necessary to wrench a text so far from its original sense as Swift did on this occasion. But better that than that one Dublin tailor. But a remnant shall be saved. Granted the extravagance of these examples, they show, nevertheless, how the imagination works and what the nature of poetry is. Poetry is not something that exists in printed words on the page.

It is not even something that exists in nature, in sunshine or in moonlight.

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Nor on the other hand is it something that exists just in the human heart or mind. It is rather the spark that leaps across when something within is brought close to something without, or something without to something within. The poetry is the spark. Or, if you will, it is what the spark gives birth to, something as different from either its inner or its outer constituent as water is from the oxygen or the hydrogen that electricity combines.

It is my guess that Shakespeare, when he was a boy, was much like Cadwal and that toward the end of his life he grew more and more like Belarius. I like to have you strike life into my speech by lighting it up with your own experience, as Cadwal did the speech of Belarius. Yes, I love to have my stories taken as dramas, but I love still more to have them taken as poetry. That at any rate is the way Shakespeare treated the stories of others.

He read his Plutarch, his Holinshed, and his Italian tales—and turned them to his own account. In most cases he remained tolerably faithful to the plots, but he put his own interpretation on them and gave his own conception of the characters. And what life he struck into them in doing so! Do not misunderstand me. Shakespeare was a genius and a writer. We are just common readers.