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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: July ::
Shakespeare and Aging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1238  Friday, 22 July 2005

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Jul 2005 10:33:43 -0400
        Subj:   Shakespeare and Aging

[2]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Jul 2005 15:23:07 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1215 Shakespeare and Aging

[3]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Jul 2005 06:07:18 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1227 Shakespeare and Aging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Jul 2005 10:33:43 -0400
Subject:        Shakespeare and Aging

I'm not sure I can add much to my initial comments about Prospero. The
world has lost its novelty for him; he's seen it all before and is,
well, less than impressed. In a way, he is like the old man at the end
of Samuel Johnson's *Rasselas,* who is no longer attached much to this
world and rather ready to leave it.

Two characters who present interesting apercus on old age are Shallow
and Silence in *Henry IV, Part 2,* a greatly underrated play, IMHO.
Shallow continues to live in the present by virtue of his idealized
memories of the past. As Falstaff notes, every third word is a lie, but
this kind of idealized memory is necessary for Shallow to get through
the day. He may not be youthful anymore, but he was really something
years ago - or so he says! Silence, on the other hand, suffers from the
accumulated disappointments of life. Things have not turned out as he
would have liked, and he is reduced to a sullen acceptance of his fate
that is best rendered by his refusal to say much of anything. In effect,
he suffers from a sorrow beyond words.

All the more wonderful, then, when Silence (of all people) begins to
sing in Shallow's orchard near the end of the play. He is accommodated
by Shallow, who serves him, by Falstaff's wit, and by the effect of
alcohol. Momentarily, he comes alive and provides the "harmony" in this
wonderfully nostalgic (and wonderfully written) "garden scene." When
Pistol intrudes and breaks the spell to announce news of "golden times"
- that Harry the Fifth is now king, this wonderful moment - a glimpse of
what Paradise might have been like - goes up in smoke, and those who
have seen the play before do not share Falstaff's excitement and joy.
For the young king will kill Falstaff's heart.

In the end, youth necessarily overturns age. That's what Harry does to
Sir John. In a kinder way, that's what Ferdinand does to Prospero. It's
the law of nature. Sigh.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 Jul 2005 15:23:07 +0000
Subject: 16.1215 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1215 Shakespeare and Aging

For background on the pool of attitudes Shakespeare swam in, check out
Keith Thomas' "Age and Authority in Early Modern England" (1976, I believe).

Regards,
Joe Egert

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Jul 2005 06:07:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1227 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1227 Shakespeare and Aging

Is not Falstaff pertinent-not disclosing the classic description of his
last moments in HV?  And  text suggesting the sexual lassitude that age
may create. Of course Hamlet could be said to represent an attitude
toward aging as well. Mildly ambivalent, I'd say. As with all else. In
general I would say WS is for it, despite its palpable disadvantages.
Cheers, S

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