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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Shakespeare: The Antithesis to Death

In Twelfth Night the old and loveless get drunk as they listen to the fools song of young love. They listen to the music to forget the truth and drink to forget the song. Orsino and Viola (dressed as a man) come closest to intimacy in the face of mortality. The sudden urge to kiss is the desperation for love. The remembrance of death causes it. Love and sex are the antithesis of death. Music seems to be a form of this; it is the gateway of communication to those distractions from death. Twelfth Night ends with the truths of death folded bitter sweetly into song, “With toss-pots still had drunken heads, / For the rain, etc. / A great while ago the world begun, / [With] hey ho, etc, / But that’s all one, our play is done, /And we’ll strive to please you every day." When the play is over the reminder of death comes back. When there are no more tricks, spells, and tales of love and the song has finished, the silence reveals the truth that we will die, memento mori. From birth, even during the innocence of childhood, humans are actually in the process of dying. Therefore, plays are a way to escape death, like sex and music. This remedy or reaction humans have for death does not seem to work for Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. As music plays and her lover relates it to the stars and the presence of heaven, she feels most distant to from God. In the process of her conversion, there is no longer a buffer between her and the reality of death, “I am never merry when I hear sweet music." The intoxication of melody is no diversion from the path of death and mortality in this moment in which she feels most human and without a god.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream the young lovers run up the stairs to make love and procreate. The haze of sex and regeneration is a form of intoxication, like a dream or drinking. The end of the play is sobriety, silence, humanity and death. Sex itself is a distraction from death and an orgasm is a resurrection. For a moment one seems to die, like the memory loss of a drunken night, it is deception. Time is lost in a dream when the actual and virtual blur beautifully. This transformation occurs in A Midsummer Night’s Dream through sex, intoxication, and dreams. The altered state of mind may make the present bearable. These superhuman experiences are almost that, otherworldly, until they end. When the peak of orgasm subsides, bodies separate, dreams conclude, and buzzes fade, the ticking clock takes over the masquerade of music. Thus, humans continue to resort to the antithesis of death, because in that lies comedy, memory-loss, and orgasm.


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