For those of you fully recovered from yesterday's bacchanalian celebrations of Shakespeare's birthday, you might enjoy reading a new note from

Fire and Air, Smoke and Mirrors
Shakespeare often revisited the same topic or theme in different plays. For example, a previous note, Shakespeare and the Casting Couch, examined the topic of sexual extortion in both Henry VI Part 3 and Measure for Measure. In both plays, men in positions of authority attempted to extort sex from women in exchange for the favors the women were requesting. But the characters in those two plays were entirely different types of people, which created entirely different dramatic moments.

This new note, The Forms of Things Unknown, briefly examines the theme of knowledge and uncertainty in three of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies — Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello. But Shakespeare, of course, would never approach this theme as if he were a professor of epistemology. He was an entertainer. His large audiences ranged, as John Heminge and Henry Condell wrote in their preface to the First Folio, “From the most able, to him that can but spell,” which included the nobility, the Oxford-educated, tapsters and bawds.

The Forms of Things Unknown begins:

“For all the power of his poetry, volume of his vocabulary and sheer prolific output, Shakespeare seemed intent on telling us that we cannot know, truly know, what we most want to know, or even think we already know. We know this on several levels.”
…Read more.

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John McGinnis