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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Traditionally, it is accepted that Shakespeare was born on 23rd April, 1564. He was the third child of a tanner, father of eight children. Shakespeare left a lasting legacy. Today, after nearly four centuries, people are so fond of his literature, that they think that Shakespeare is still living among us. His plays, his characters, his poetry, and his knowledge of the human mind – all transcend the limits of time and space. He died on the same date 23rd April 1616. Within his short life, he created poetry and plays the essence of which has influenced generations of writers throughout the world.
His spontaneity and the magical music of the sounds of the words cannot be described in words. It has to be experienced to understand what it is. The sheer intensity of his life and the strong desire to express himself resulted in the wonderful treasure that we have in the form of his poetry and plays.
Shakespeare’s characters are real and life-like. His tragic heroes suffer from one major tragic flaw. For example, King Lear is credulous and gives in to the flattery of his two elder daughters. The youngest daughter who truly loved him would use no such flowery words and got nothing out of his kingdom and his wealth. In the play, King Lear has to suffer for the rest of his life due to the one tragic flaw of being credulous and prone to flattery. How many of us continue to suffer even today.
Julius Caesar on the other hand was extremely ambitious. Thus, it was the tragic flaw of ambition that led other senators to murder him. Even today, there are people like Shakespeare whose unbridled ambition causes them to suffer from this tragic flaw.
Extreme hunger for Power saw the end of Macbeth. In fact, each of Shakespeare’s tragedies ends in a nemesis that gives an inspiration to all of us to improve and develop and grow. Because left to themselves, things can only go from bad to worse.
His play ‘ The Merchant of Venice’ leaves a harsh message for extremely harsh negotiators. Demands must draw their own limits. So, negotiators must look for win-win situations, rather than facing flak in the end.
More on this great man and the lessons to be learnt in my next posting.