Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yearning: Shakespeare and the Rest of Us

Tomorrow, I will teach my high school students Sonnet 18, which is perhaps the most famous of William Shakespeare's intricate love poems. As I was preparing the lesson this afternoon, I was struck by how Shakespeare's words call out across cultures and centuries to our own hearts. This happened when I listened to this reading of the sonnet by David Tenant, the Scottish actor best known in this house as the tenth embodiment of Dr. Who. 

See what I mean?

There is much scholarship and speculation about the person or people to whom Shakespeare wrote his sonnets. From the vantage point of five centuries later, the identities of his beloveds are an irrelevancy. His sonnets, written during an outbreak of the plague in London when theaters were closed, are powerful because they speak so exquisitely to our own hearts. Tuesday night in School of Community we read and talked about the universality of human desire, about how our yearning, in the end, is our desire for the One who created us. In Sonnet 18, Shakespeare is struck by the mortal nature of his beloved and begs that his poem will somehow capture the essence of his beloved "so long as men can breathe or eyes can see."

Why do I yearn so much? Why is this cry, this urge so powerful? I yearn. Yearning is desiring something intensely, passionately, almost irresistibly. The amazing thing is that we, even though we are closed among mortal things, among ephemeral things, have such a powerful, boundless desire..

It is so structurally one thing with us, it defines us so much in every fiber of our being, that we cannot help but expect. . 

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