The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0723  Monday, 21 August 2006

From: 		Ted Nellen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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.

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 

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