07 March 2012

Death-wish in Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of deprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?" (Hamlet 3, i)

And after that?

"'Where do I wander?' she mused. 'Down what draughty tunnels? Where the eyeless wind blows? And there grows nothing for the eye. No rose. To issue where? In some harvestless dim field where no evening lets fall her mantle; nor sun rises. All's equal there. Unblowing, ungrowing are the roses  there. Change is not; nor the mutable and lovable; nor greetings nor partings; nor furtive findings and feelings, where hand seeks hand and eye seeks shelter from the eye.'" (Between the Acts Folio Society ed. 1974 p.117)

Shakespeare gives six good reasons to do yourself in, and Woolf outlines a modern (or Greek?) idea of where that may lead. Life is change, and many changes are painful, namely those tribulations issuing from life's interminable power plays with others. Sadly, on the barren, changeless field the hesitant movement of seeking and, perhaps, tentatively finding another also ceases.

No comments:

Post a Comment