The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0723 Monday, 21 August 2006
Date: Saturday, 5 Aug 2006 10:54:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Updike from The New Yorker
A recent New Yorker has an interesting piece on late works and
Shakespeare is, of course, mentioned. Enjoy.
Writers and artists confronting the end.
by JOHN UPDIKE
Last words, recorded and treasured in the days when the deathbed was in
the home, have fallen from fashion, perhaps because most people spend
their final hours in the hospital, too drugged to make any sense. And
only the night nurse hears them talk. Yet, at least for this aging
reader, works written late in a writer's life retain a fascination. They
exist, as do last words, where life edges into death, and perhaps have
something uncanny to tell us.
[ . . . ]
A sacrifice of, or impatience with, "coherent sense," as well as the
requisite irascibility and what Said calls "highlighting and dramatizing
. . . irreconcilabilities," can certainly be ascribed to the shimmering
late works of Shakespeare, an artistic titan on Beethoven's scale.
Lateness came early to both, both dead in their fifties.
After the composition of Shakespeare's last tragedies-the opulent,
spacious "Antony and Cleopatra" (1606-1607), the cold, rhetorically
contorted "Coriolanus" (1607-08), and the rough-hewn, one-note "Timon of
Athens" (1607-08)-there is a slackening, as if something had snapped.
"Timon of Athens," apparently unfinished and unproduced, has been
thought by some speculative scholars to mark a personal crisis for the
writer; no less measured a source than the Encyclop