It's Shakespeare everywhere

It's Shakespeare everywhere

William Shakespeare, who never refrained from using hyperbole to convey a sentiment or intent, might not have disagreed much with a suggestion that he was next to God. No other writer has created a world of imagination with such width and  depth, and diversity and originality, as Shakespeare did. The 400th anniversary of his death should remind the world of that great and singular position he has among the world’s writers, past and present, not just among English writers. Many of the words and phrases he minted became the most used currency in the English language. But this is only a measure of his impact. English, as a language, was not prepared to convey what Shakespeare had to communicate with his plays and poems. He had to invent a language to convey his world with all its beauty, and its horror and glory, and that marked his genius.

With that language, he presented a world peopled with men and women bigger and smaller than life, with all their strengths and failings, driven by passions or smitten by doubts, thinking, feeling and acting. With them, he created stories and narratives that held a mirror to humanity. He had a vision of hell like Dante and Dostoevsky, glimpsed through the terror of a Lear or the horror of a Macbeth, and a vision of heaven which Kalidasa had, where the conflicts of the human condition were resolved, as conjured up in some measure by Prospero. The lover and the fool lived in that world, along with the king and the killer and the magician and all others. All sentiments, emotions and thoughts found their place there – love, hatred, honour, ambition, jealousy, forgiveness and kindness. As with the Mahabharata, there is perhaps nothing in the world which is not in Shakespeare.

He had a vision that evolved from innocence through experience to realisation of a higher unity of life. Shakespeare’s greatness lay in the fact that he made this journey of discovery on his own. The England of the Elizabethan age did not have the intellectual wherewithal to give him the idea of evolution from innocence through tragic knowledge to the sense of
bliss of the final plays. It could not easily be mined from the Semitic worldview either, on which the European sensibility was based. But Shakespeare discovered it himself, perhaps at great pain, and having evolved, threw his magic wand away. In 400 years, poetry has rarely touched his heights and drama rarely matched his art. A wonderful world, which had such a man in it!
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