Friday, 9 April 2010

Shakespeare on Illness

My Shakespeare blogs written on "Between Worlds" appear on Facebook because my blog is linked.

Today I found these incredible lines in Henry V, which explain what illness is really for. Is there nothing that Shakespeare had not thought about? Clearly, it is not very credible that a King like Henry V, just before the Battle of Agincourt would be musing on illness, except by comparison with war. Hence, I think the Poet is ventilating his complex ruminations on the nature of experience in relation to God:

"Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man in his bed: wash every mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained; and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think that making God so free an offer, He let him outlive that day (of illness), to see His greatness and to teach others how they should prepare". Henry V Act IV Sc. 1

Having had a long illness, I agree with this: 1. Illness is to make us repent and thoroughly to cleanse our conscience 2. it promotes readiness to die and detachment from this life 3. death in this state is always an advantage 4. God rewards some with longer life like Hezekiah 5. If you recover or survive you know more about God's greatness like Job, and you should teach others how they should use their own illness.

I've just modernised a Victorian book which says exactly the same. We should not tell people today to concentrate everything on healing, when, in fact, they should be examining themselves thoroughly.

No comments:

Post a Comment