16 March 2013

Shakespeare on Time

 

I have written about time in poetry last year in my “Time in Poetry – Haiku”, but after re-watching Ran by Kurosawa and Titus by Taymor (both films are pretty wild interpretations of Shakespearian plays) I came across this verse from Macbeth regarding time:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


I liked the idea of time being a succession of meaningless syllables uttered by a passing shadow and was intrigued to discover more of Shakespeare’s vision of time which always seem so linked to fate and the inevitability of death.

I found the following:

...Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done, is done.

With these words Lady Macbeth tries to reassure her husband and later herself by muttering “What’s done cannot be undone”.
In Othello Shakespeare writes of “the vale of years” not to be confused with the vale of tears though the echo is suggestive. In the 15th century the Vale came to be a metaphor for the span of life between the peaks of birth and death in which we live our careworn lives. "Vale of trouble and woe," "vale of weeping," "vale of misery," and "vale of tears" illustrate typical uses of the word before Shakespeare. Othello's phrase, however, seems intended in a more neutral sense; the "vale of years" is the broad, flat stretch of middle age beyond the slope of youth.

I’d like to conclude with 2 sonnets; XII and LX (like the hours and minutes...)

SONNET XII
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

SONNET LX
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

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