Friday, 3 June 2016

The sea hath cast me on the rocks

What would Shakespeare do?

Some people use WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) as a guide to life’s difficult questions. It is no surprise to my family and friends that my internal guru question is WWSD…. What would Shakespeare do? Would he vote to Remain in Europe or Brexit pursued by a bear?

What I have been I have forgot to know

Shakespeare’s writing always seems to empathise with castaways. A previous blog highlighted Thomas More’s appeal to the mob to embrace the migrant (click here to read.) Characters washing ashore in other lands feature throughout the plays: the Antipholus twins, their parents and the Dromio twins in The Comedy of Errors, Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Pericles and Thaisa in Pericles, Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest. Shakespeare’s work is riddled with characters recovering from being adrift and cast out. Pericles, washing up on the shores of Pentapolis expresses how many migrants must feel:
Alas, the sea hath cast me on the rocks,
Wash’d me from shore to shore, and left me breath
Nothing to think on but ensuing death….
A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, have made the ball
For them to play upon, entreats you pity him….
What I have been I have forgot to know

 European locations and European sources

Apart from setting his plays all around the Mediterranean (see map at the end of this blog – click here) Shakespeare also went to European writers to source his plays: Leo Africanus (Spanish Moroccan), Appian, Homer and Plutarch (Greek), Ariosto, Bandello, Boccaccio, Castiglione and Cinthio (Italian), Belleforest and Froissart (French), Montemayor (Spanish), Ovid, Plautus, Pliny the Elder and Seneca (Roman Italian.) Most of these were most likely in translations but it was clear the influence of Europe animated Shakespeare's writings. My head and heart tell me that if My Boy Bill could vote in the forthcoming EU referendum he would vote Remain.