Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gift horse in the mouth

I have been thinking about gift giving in Shakespeare.

There doesn't seem to be too much of it if I remember rightly.

What there is tends to be more insult or cupboard love ... which is interesting.

Timon goes over the top with gifts - which in this 'Christmas' season might not seem a bad thing. I am not so sure.

I don't celebrate Christmas and I don't give (or take if I can avoid it) gifts. I've got around to a feeling of superficiality in both the giving and the taking - and there is certainly nothing spiritual in it.

So what is Timon doing? Is he weak in the mind?

I did give a gift this week though - and shall give another on Sunday.

Because of the state of my health and the severe possibility that I shall be leaving Romania for a long time, I passed on to one of my young friends my complete DVD collection of Shakespeare and my precious Oxford Complete Works - I hope it gives much pleasure and starts him on a path of adventure and exploration.

What I don't feel I've given is anything material. There was an intellectual gift there - and not a definitive one - it is more like a dowry, a source of future riches, a foundation

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wood within a wood ...

Although the play has no evidence for it, I like to think of Macbeth looking out over the castle walls at Birnam wood and reflecting.

Much in the way I have been reflecting on my tumour.

I can actually see it - the doctor cut a 'vent' so he could take the biopsy and has left me a nice view of the problem. For those morbid enough (or with the stomach) it looks a little like a walnut - or half a walnut (the doctor, struggling for the correct English comparison, described it as a cauliflower - which is much too floral). It reminds me of my time in school when we dissected things - and the vengeance of the mouse is upon me - very mouse brain with alcohol dripped on it.

Anyway, when you look at 'Birnam Wood' you see your fate - you have to face that fate, there is no alternative. You are looking into the probable end. Macbeth's initial reaction has to turn cold. It is not depression, it is not even depressing, there is a satisfaction as you look and reflect - a knowingness - of being tricked into a false security and of smiling at your own gulability.

There is a determination too - OK, you've got me, but I'm going down strong. Not necessarily fighting (although in Macbeth it is that), not necessarily raging - but with whatever strength you can muster and with at least an attempt at dignity.

There is a certainty of defeat - and this is possibly an English thing - fighting the game to take part, not to win. The battle will be the final one, and Macbeth has no illusions as to silly schoolboy ideals of glory - he has fought before and knows the hacking of limbs, the bathing in blood the agonies and screams - as I know the fight against pain of cancer - I've seen enough of my family fall to it not to have any illusions: There will be no dignity in the end, just the coughing up of blood,the manual evacuation and the balance between enough pain killer and not extinguishing life.

There is no bravery possible, you have a choice of illusion or facing the fight - bravery is when you choose to fight when you do not have to - Macbeth has to, I have to.

I am aware though of Macduff - Macbeth as he looks at Birnam knows nothing of him. I know there will come an energy sapping moment when defeat stares me very closely in the face. Macbeth, ever the soldier, 'lays on': I hope to goodness sake I can do the same.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nothing serious in mortality

It is strange when Shakespeare pops into one's head.

I was flat on my back in hospital last week coming out of a spinal block and several quotes and ideas popped into my head.

Macbeth, of course - with an inevitability only to be expected -

There's nothing serious in mortality ...

- but I'm concentrating on the lack of serious.

Being recently diagnosed with a tumour, my sense of humour has been considerably sharpened. So too is Fate's - both the initial 'revelation' under local anesthetic, with the sound of 'jingle bells' (you need to think where the growth is spreading to get the full implication of that one) on the radio (strange music for the urologist I'd say) and then, recovering from the spinal block used for a more adventurous cutting expedition, to have to endure flat on my back without resistance more 'Christmas Cheer' - Angels are apparently singing - not about my plight I hope.

No, there is nothing serious in mortality.

The spinal block though was another Shakespeare moment.

I couldn't help but think of Titus and limb chopping. To have the sensation of legs but no feeling and no possible movement ... it is a weird, frustrating incomprehensibility of a sensation - I'll be coming to the play not too far from now and hope to explore a little that moment.

As regular readers of this blog will now understand ... my absence is fortold, but I do hope to get a bit further into the journey before the old antic pops his pin through brass.

And I promise to try not to be as self-pitying as Richard.