Monday, March 31, 2008

Themes of Witchcraft and Mythology in Shakespeare

In Shakespeare class, Dr. Clemente pointed out comparisons between the play we are currently reading in class, King Lear, and the Three Weird Sisters from Macbeth. The reason this was brought up was the mentioning of Hecate, who in Greek mythology was the patron of witchcraft. King Lear takes place before Christianity touched England so her inclusion would not be out of place.

Lear himself mentions her:

"Well, let it be so. Thy truth then be thy dower,
For by the sacred radiance of the sun,
The mysteries of Hecate and the night,
By all the operation of the orbs,
From whome we do exist and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Prpinquity, and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee from this forever. The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation
Messes to gorge his appetite, shall be
As well neighbored, pitied, and relieved
As thou my sometime daughter."

This also illustrates Lear's optimism and idealistic nature, which will most likely be his downfall concerning the management of his three daughters Cordelia, Goneril and Regan. He is a man who wants good things to happen but fails to see the darkness envelop around him.

Part of the reason of why I am growing to like Shakespeare more than I used to is his use of references and themes from mythology and legend. King Lear itself is an old folktale derived from ancient times. A Midsummer Night's Dream makes liberal use of Greek mythology, and other plays make good use of key figures in mythology to make important points in their dialogue.

The amazing thing about Shakespeare's works is that the author unwittingly created his own mythology, his legend, that allowed characters from different plays to leap into films and other mediums that are not directly associated with Shakespeare. Puck for instance is a regular recurring character in the classic cartoon Gargoyles and other characters like Titania make their appearance in the show. Other writers' characters have been "borrowed" for storylines and Shakespeare is no exception.

- Kristopher

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