The Bard lives on

Even after four hundred and fifty years, Shakespeare continues to inspire people.
The heat is oppressive. The humidity hangs like a wet blanket over the still night, sending trickles of sweat down the neck that accentuates the nocturnal misery. The leaves are still, not a stir anywhere.

The stray dogs, bats, cats, rats, bandicoots and other creatures of the night also appear to have buckled under the heat. Tossing and turning, sleep is an elusive luxury , but nevertheless must be sought after, if only to face the rigours of the coming day. The wandering mind strays afar, alighting on this and that, like a thirsty bird in search of water.

Then, for no particular reason, Shakespeare’s ‘A Misdummer Night’s Dream’ makes its appearance on the mindscape. As the Bard himself said, the play may have been the most lamentable comedy, but his warning to the actors “eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath” is like a gentle zephyr on a sultry afternoon.

One of the greatest poets and dramatists the world has ever seen, William Shakespeare’s works explore the deepest recesses of the human psyche, portraying human emotions and conflicts in the most eloquent prose, evoking a rich imagery that is as relevant today as it was during his time.

Humans are,  after all, humans , with all the foibles and frailties that characterise man. Moral turpitude, betrayal, greed, power hunger, double talk, justifying evil by invoking lofty ideals, these are timeless traits that have accompanied man from the time he first appeared on earth and will cling to him for as long he is around.

Note the stark similarity between what the politicians of today say and what Brutus said in Julius and Caesar. “Censure me in your wisdom and awaken your senses that you may be the better judge” he says, whipping up people’s emotions while trying to justify his killing of Caesar.

If contemporaray politicians justify their switching of loyalities from party to party by saying that they have the nation’s interest uppermost in their minds, Brutus said that he loved Caesar no less, but only that he loved Rome more.

That life brings both sweet and bitter tidings and no one is exempt from committing mistakes is beautifully brought out in his sonnet when Shakespeare says ,“ Roses have thorns and silver fountains mud, clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, and loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud, all men make faults, --”. And where there is a fault, can remedy be far behind?

And for remedy, are not mercy and forgiveness the essential ingredients? Portia touchingly drives home this fact to that usurious Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ when she says,“the quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, tis twice blest, him that giveth and him that takes.”

Four hundred and fifty years after his birth, Shakespeare continues to inspire humankind, with not only his mastery over the written word, but equally by his insightful handling of situations that man has to grapple with in his life.

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