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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 8, 2007 / 24 Menachem-Av, 5767

Ourselves in Shakespeare

By Michael Gerson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It is a disturbing experience to watch your own brother, your flesh and blood, dabble in the occult, become consumed by ambition and then descend by stages into murder. And the last straw was when he ordered the slaughter of those children.


But it was even harder for my younger brother Christopher to play Macbeth 13 times at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minn., giving sympathetic life to a moral monster, under seven layers of Scottish armor while carrying a 20-pound spear. It is a tribute to his skill that when Macbeth's head was finally brought on stage in a bloody sack, it did not feel like justice done but like the departure of the play's vital, lawless center.


Every summer, the church of Shakespeare holds services called festivals in Alabama, Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, Hampton Roads and nearly every place with cultural ambitions. There is Shakespeare by the Sea in Redondo Beach, Calif., Shakespeare on the Green in Wilmington, N.C., Shakespeare on the Sound in Norwalk, Conn., and Shakespeare Under the Stars in Wimberley, Tex. And the worshipers are fervent and knowledgeable; an actor at the Winona festival was distracted one night by an older woman in the second row who mouthed the entire play along with the production.


Some of this attraction is the beauty and complexity of Shakespeare's words — the tumble of ideas and images that yield more meaning on the 10th hearing than on the first. But the amazing achievement of the plays, as critic Harold Bloom and others point out, is when characters such as Hamlet, King Lear or Macbeth transcend the words they speak and come to life — transformed into what the poet Shelley called "forms more real than living man." Other playwrights use characters as mouthpieces for their own wit or philosophy. Shakespeare's greatest characters seem to possess the spark of their own identity. They have somehow escaped the cage of the author's intentions.


These fictional but living characters have influenced politics and history. Abraham Lincoln was obsessed by Shakespeare's histories and tragedies, once writing, "I think nothing equals 'Macbeth.' " There is something eerie about his brooding on the examples of leaders driven by ambition, cursed by fate and destined for a violent end. After visiting a fallen Richmond in 1865, on his river trip back to Washington, Lincoln read aloud a passage from "Macbeth" about Duncan's assassination: "Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison / Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing / Can touch him further." Moved by the words, he read them over again.


Not long ago, according to historian Michael Beschloss, archivists discovered a high school essay written by a 16-year-old Harry Truman on "The Merchant of Venice." As a student in Miss Brown's English class, Truman argued that after 2,000 years, the Jews were "a nation apart from nations . . . persecuted for their religion" and still "waiting for a leader" to gather their "scattered people." Many decades later, President Truman took a grave and controversial risk by recognizing the state of Israel — an issue he had first considered as a teenager at Independence High School reading William Shakespeare.


Yet Shakespeare's influence is not primarily ideological or even religious; his views on these topics are cloaked and obscure. He does not attempt to explain history or the gods to men but rather to explain men and women to themselves. His narrow topic is humanity, and it is immense: everything from stalking guilt to bawdy humor, from insanity to jokes about passing gas, from love to death to those moments when they are inseparable.


In a time deluged by ideology — when everyone is urged to take a side and join the political battle — Shakespeare offers a different message: that the most important and dramatic choices are made in the human soul. Some steps, once taken, cannot be retraced. Some appetites, once freed, become a prison.


But the plays are not simple sermons. Fate can be indifferent to our best intentions. Even the purest love can lead to disaster. All our explanations of suffering are incomplete.


We watch the struggling souls in Shakespeare's plays with uncomfortable self-recognition. In their raw honesty we see our own nature, even those parts that are despairing and lawless. And as these characters are transformed, we see ourselves differently as well.


And so we enter a dark theater (or green or beach or riverside) and escape to what is most real.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Michael Gerson's column by clicking here.




Previously:


08/03/07: What matters about Romney's religion
08/01/07: One tool America needs
07/27/07: The Kind Of Village It Takes
07/25/07: The Price Of Peace In Uganda
07/05/07: Our other enemies
07/05/07: Where the Avatars Roam
07/05/07: Living up to our creed
06/29/07: The Gospel of Obama
06/27/07: An exit to disaster
06/22/07: Courage at a Cost: Why McCain Deserves Conservatives' Respect
06/20/07: Unchained by Idealism
06/15/07: Zimbabwe's unending agony
06/13/07: Two parties fleeing the center
06/08/07: A different path in Turkey
06/06/07: An Islamic test for Turkey
06/04/07: Mass circumcise Africans?
05/30/07: A Big Enough Stick for Sudan

© 2007, WPWG

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