In Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom argues that Shakespeare did more than just shape the structure and content of the English language—he created human nature as we understand it today. As James Shapiro explains, “Shakespeare remains so popular and his most memorable characters feel so real because through them Shakespeare invented something that hadn’t existed before. Bloom defines this as ‘personality,’ inwardness, what it means to be human.
In Book 19 of The Odyssey, Penelope recounts to a disguised Odysseus her dream of a great eagle swooping out of the sky and killing twenty geese she tends to, which leaves her brokenhearted. The eagle tells her to be happy since he symbolizes the husband who will wreak vengeance on her suitors. Whether Homer intended this dream to demonstrate the power of prophecy, a complex psychological statement regarding Penelope’s
This is part of a series of columns that feature a much-loved poem, and other poems that speaks to, or resonate with, the first poem. This week’s poem is “Requiem,” written by Robert Louis Stevenson. This poem was carved into Stevenson’s gravestone. The line that attracted me was “Glad did I live and gladly die.” Some critics consider this a bold lie, but I prefer to think of it as a remarkably existential
Westmoreland: O that we now had here But one ten thousand of those men in England That do no work to-day! King: What’s he that wishes so? My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; If we are mark’d to die, we are enow To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour. God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.