His power as a writer came not only from the beauty of his poetry, but his deep understanding of the ambiguities and contradictions that go into making a human being and a human society. He grasped that human history is merely itself. It moves towards no goal.
By Chris Hedges / The Real News Network
Shakespeare’s works concerned far more than matters of love and betrayal, pointy hats or men in tights. From musings on the nature of autocracy and corruption to a disdain for anarchy and disorder, the Bard’s works have long contained a significant political current that spoke to the matters of his times and still find resonance today. David Herskovits, the founder and artistic director of Target Margin Theatre, and the actor Eunice Wong join The Chris Hedges Report to discuss the works of Shakespeare and what they might still teach us about navigating the storm of slings and arrows of our 21st Century. You can find tickets and more information about their play, ‘Pericles’ at targetmargin.org.
Studio: Adam Coley, Dwayne Gladden
Audio Post-Production: Tommy Harron
Video Post-Production: Chris Arnone
Footage: Evan Macaluso
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
I carried copies of William Shakespeare’s plays into the conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
When I was taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard in Basra during the Shia Uprising following the first Gulf War, I had a copy of Antony and Cleopatra in the pocket of my M-65 field jacket, along with Homer’s The Iliad. Sigmund Freud turned to Shakespeare, along with the Greek myths, to lay the foundations for Freudian psychoanalysis. Karl Marx liberally quoted from Shakespeare using the Merchant of Venice to explain economic theory. Writers such as Charles Dickens built on the foundations of Shakespeare. Herman Melville formed his characters in Moby Dick from the clay of the Bible and Shakespeare.
Perhaps only the Bible rivals Shakespeare in its archetypal significance. Shakespeare invented thousands of words that remain part of our vocabulary: gloomy, monumental, castigate, assassination, addiction, cold-blooded to name a few.
His power as a writer came not only from the beauty of his poetry, but his deep understanding of the ambiguities and contradictions that go into making a human being and a human society. He grasped that human history is merely itself. It moves towards no goal. The universe is morally neutral. The gods favor you one day and turn their back on you the next. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” Gloucester says. “They kill us for their sport.”
Good does not always triumph. Indeed, it is often no match when pitted against murderous tyrannies. Antony in the play, Antony and Cleopatra, embraces love and passion and loses empire. Like Dido, by surrendering to love, he is no match for Octavius’s single-minded quest for power.
Shakespeare brought hundreds of characters to life: king Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Cleopatra, Malvolio, Falstaff, Romeo, Juliet, Othello. And created narratives of such power that they continue to haunt our imaginations.
Joining me to discuss William Shakespeare and its importance is David Herskovitz, the Founder and Artistic Director of Target Margin Theater, and the actor Eunice Wong, to whom I’m married. Target Margin will mount a production of the play Pericles at the Doxsee Theater in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, starting on February 25th and running through March 26th.
You can find out more at targetmargin.org.
So I’ll open with you, Eunice, and this Harold Goddard book, which we both like very much. The Meaning of Shakespeare describes Shakespeare as an oracle. And I wonder if you agree, and if so, why?
I would agree with that. I mean, an oracle is traditionally something that is prophetic, ambiguous and requiring interpretation, usually by priests. I think you could say all of that of Shakespeare….
Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges // “Borges and I”
The Just. By Jorge Luis Borges
Happiness. By Jorge Luis Borges
Harry V. Jaffa: Macbeth and the Moral Universe