The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1157 Tuesday, 17 November 1998.
Date: Tuesday, 17 Nov 1998 03:20:41 -0500
Subject: Professor Charles Levy
"The world well lost."
In 1670, John Dryden used these four words in the title of his version
of _Antony and Cleopatra_. In 1997, I used the four words as a point of
departure for a paper discussing Shakespeare's version of the play. The
paper was for an introductory class on Shakespeare taught at Cornell by
Professor Charles Levy. It was a wonderful class - and I don't say that
without reflection. I have before me all the papers I wrote during the
14 weeks and 13 plays that constituted that semester. Looking over
them, I vividly recall the excitement of those three months. It was an
excitement that seemed to grow as days slipped into weeks, and weeks
into months. It was with great sadness that the end of the semester
came. No more would I be able to look forward to lectures that always
seemed to hint at more than they would say, thus leaving the thrill of
discovery for anyone who wished to find it. No more would I leave a
classroom with seventeenth century thoughts dancing through my mind, and
rush to the seventh floor of the library, to find a desk in a quiet
corner on which I could rest my _Riverside Shakespeare_ and read and
re-read for five or six hours straight a single play. Of course, when
the class bell tolled that final time, when the semester ended, my love
of Shakespeare nonetheless survived. And it continues to survive
today. But it was during that class that this love was born; it was
because of that class that it shall never die.
Today I made the sad discovery that Professor Charles Levy died
unexpectedly last week. It is no doubt not for me to mourn him-others
knew him far better than I. They knew him as a person and as a friend.
As a father and as a child, as a husband and as a brother. I knew him
only in his role as a professor. I never knew him as a man - and even
if he was "but a man, as I am," he shall never be "but a man" for me.
He will always be Charles Levy, the professor who introduced me to
something larger than life, something that persistently survives. Call
it Shakespeare. Call it literature. Call it what you will. The name
matters little. What matters is that Professor Levy ignited passions
within my mind that promise never to burn out. He set my world aflame
in such a way that I was, and continue to be, warmed by its glow.
I have no idea whether Professor Levy set the scholarly world aflame in
similar fashion. I rather suspect he didn't. Whatever his effect in
the world of letters, however, his effect in the world of men shall not
soon be forgotten. Charles Levy, as he now journeys to that
undiscover'd country, nonetheless survives here, in this country, in the
world of men basking in a flame he lit-a flame not easily extinguished.
Forgive me if this is not the place to mourn Professor Levy-though it
was he who recommended this list to me. Perhaps there is no right place
for such a mourning. Then again, perhaps this is the right place.
What is that line I can hardly remember - that line about sitting around
a fire, and telling sad, sad stories of the deaths of kings? This fire
around which we all sit, the burning passion for Shakespeare, is
Professor Levy's monument. So long as it burns, he shall be sorely
missed, and always remembered.