Any great literary writer is invariably a great teacher. Writer will not sermonize. Life of the current time (normally) is beautifully portrayed. Yet, one could draw great inferences and learn very useful lessons that help humans to live life better. I don’t claim to have read much of Shakespeare, but I am one of his great admirers.
Works of Shakespeare transcend the limits of time and space. He is as relevant today as he was in his time. He is as relevant in India as in England. I have picked up 4 of his tragedies. According to me these are eye openers for common people like us. The four plays I have chosen to talk about are: Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear.
When we read these plays thoughtfully and contemplate, we are able to identify short comings of similar nature in our personalities. We may be quite surprised. How and why these did not receive our attention. We would like to remove these faults even though they may be in very small measure. The classified blemishes I am talking about are:
1. Suspicion, Jealousy (Othello)
2. Greed that led to extinction (Macbeth)
3. Credulity Prone to flattery (Lear)
4. Indecision that reaches tragic proportions (Hamlet)
As I said above reading these plays, we observe that all these weaknesses were foolishly repetitive in the tragic characters. We might find that similarly we too harbor some habits that make us do something which we don’t want, repetitively. It is here that we learn a lesson. One can purge one’s personality if so desire. Undoubtedly, the exercise will require a mentor or a guide.
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Guru Dutt left this world on 10th October 1964. He was only 39 years old at that time. An extremely creative director and an equally talented actor Guru Dutt died young. He loved and married a great Bengali singer Geeta Roy. As a singer she is popular as Geeta Dutt. For a few years both lived a happy life. But the family’s happiness did not last long.
Guru Dutt had introduced Waheeda Rehman, again a very talented actress, to the Hindi Cinema. Working together in films, Guru Dutt got emotionally attached with her. At the same time Geeta Dutt was intensely in love with her husband and did not accept the situation. Besides, Guru Dutt was more of an idealist who would not accept the society as it was. This is fairly evident from his films: Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool.
Guru Datt and Geeta Dutt in happy days that did not last.
Needless to say that anyone who doesn’t accept the society as it exists faces big problems which often lead to tragedies. The same happened in case of the great artist Guru Dutt.
Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in Pyaasa.
I am reminded of the tragic heroes of William Shakespeare. Each hero suffers from a tragic flaw in the personality. In case of King Lear, we find that the King was extremely credulous and prone to flattery. Dividing his kingdom he gave nothing to the youngest of the three daughters who loved him most but never practiced flattery. The two daughters who got the entire kingdom, threw their father out. Only then the king realized that Cordellia only loved him and not the other two. Likewise Othello is driven by his dominant personality flaw – suspicion and meets the tragic end. Hamlet suffers because of indecision and Macbeth is overpowered by his lust for wealth and drives himself to his tragic end.
King Lear Othello
Guru dutt was an idealist who didn’t find the society worth accepting and he suffered. But his creativity gave Hindi Cinema many gifts. Johny Walker the best known comedian of Indian cinema was discovered and mentored by Guru Dutt. Our film industry has yet to see a comic character who could match the acting excellence that Johny Walker had achieved. Those who had seen Pyaasa will never forget Johny Walker’s small role and the song ‘Tel malish… sar jo tere chakraye ya dil duba jaye aaja pyare pass humare kahe ghabaraye….’
Other memorable films of Guru Dutt were Saheb Biwi Ghulam and Choudhavi ka Chand. Guru Dutt is often referred as “India’s Orson Welles”. His films were liked in Europe particularly Germany and France. He was also popular in Japan.
On 10 October 1964, Guru Dutt was found dead in his bed in his rented apartment at Pedder Road in Mumbai. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. His death might have been suicide, or just an accidental overdose. It would have been his third suicide attempt.
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Shakespeare was born in April 1564. Some people say he was born on 22nd April others opine 23rd April 1564. He died at the age of 52 years on 23rd April 1660 that means almost 400 years ago.
How is it that his popularity as a dramatist has not faded out? The reason is his philosophy, the wisdom that we find in his plays and the energizing wit and humor of his comedy. In fact, these transcend the limits of time and space. He has dealt with human emotions – anger, ambition, jealousy, credulity, indecision etc: these habits are found in the people even today.
In this post I propose to discuss his wisdom as is evident from the 3 pieces I have picked from 3 different plays.
Hamlet was a victim of indecision. Indecision was the bane of his life. Unfortunately today also we find many of us suffer from indecision. In the process we undergoavoidable mental agony. I give below the oft quoted words of Hamlet.
To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether’ it’s nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?
In sharp contrast are the following words taken from his play As You Like It.
As You Like It.
And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
These words, I find, are even more relevant today than were in his own time. ‘Exempt from Public Haunt’- we are in dire need of getting a break and going to the nature from our daily hectic life. And the best place is back to the nature. We have lots of resorts by the sea side, on the scenic mountains, and similar places where we are away from ‘Public Haunt’. As Shakespeare says we can speak to the trees enjoy running brooks/trees and find all the goodness of the world in nature.
Finally I have picked up a very significant point from the tragedy- Macbeth. :
When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors.
The philosophy of this word is as true today as at any time. Often we do not want to act as Williams yet due to our fears we are motivated to indulge. In many other plays to I find Shakespeare’s massage to imbibe courage in ones personality, speaks louder than words.
Thank you for reading.