NO LIFE WITHOUT A TEMPEST! – Guest Author – Satish Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
The gist of this reflection is in its title. That is how I felt after watching The Tempest, the last play that William Shakespeare (1564-1617) wrote six years before he died at a ‘relatively’ young age of 53. The enactment of this play in 1611 speaks of the high social stature that Shakespeare must have achieved while he was alive. He was prophetic about his legacy and the immortality of his works. It is incredibly captured by his words in his play, Julius Caesar: How many ages hence Shall this our lofty scene be acted over In states (countries) unborn and accents (languages) yet unknown!
Being myself at the age of 83 and in the backdrop of the quote above, I am fully cognizant of the writings that I have been doing lately. However, there is one big difference between us. Shakespeare was a very good businessman, and got along very well with powers-that-be – contemporary royalty and church. The power struggle between the pope and European monarchies had heated up by the 16th century. In 1559, England had adopted protestant Christianity. Through his plays, Shakespeare played his cards deftly.
The tempest in the play is not simply a thunderstorm that caused a shipwreck – it is absolutely metaphorical and allegorical. It is symbolic of the life at large that every human being faces at one time or the other. In fact, the focus in the play is on the eye of the tempest when all the senses tend to desert the body and mind. Normal people become abnormal and even paranormal. Yes, that is the eternal draw of The Tempest. It is depicted in royal intrigues, betrayals, unworldly events, magic, clairvoyance and much more. It seems that the bard has put all his experiences into this play – the culmination of his works.
Let me admit that I have studied only one play and a couple of Shakespeare’s sonnets. However, I have watched most of the plays and some more than once. Frankly, I do not start catching onto Shakespearean English before Act 1 is over. Also, the pace of the dialogues is too fast for me to absorb its nuances. In actuality, every play becomes a medium of my life itself seen as a play. Moreover, I have the capacity to extrapolate ideas. Therefore, I do read about a play before leaving for the theater.
The fact remains that I am drawn to Shakespeare the moment I see its announcement. Today was the opening night. The play was produced by the Nevada Shakespeare Company, and supported by Henderson’s Parks and Recreation Department. It was set in an open amphitheater. A sidebar: in an audience of nearly 200 people, 70% were around the age of 70, not even a single Black person was seen, and there was me, a lone Asian. It tells something about the changing face of America, the kind of change that India has been undergoing since 1192. This observation is an example of my extrapolation of ideas.
While watching the play, I wondered at the rise of digital and classical artists in India whose works would have Shakespearean caliber. Artists reflect the political leadership of a nation. Shakespeare rose in the tumultuous period of the English Reformation under King Henry the VIII. In present-day India, the doctrine of Hindutva is a Hindu Diaspora Reformation movement. India may be pregnant with the likes of Shakespeare and Isaac Newton (1643-1727).
In conclusion, let me go to Ground Zero, my world of mathematics. In all his plays, Shakespeare has spoken his mind through 1223 different characters – beggars and kings, males and females, young and old, sissies and machos, and so on and on. How did he keep track of them all? He must have maintained a master file of characters. The creation of 1223 characters is like publishing 1223 research papers in mathematics. It reminds me of the mathematician Paul Erdos, who has the world record of having published nearly1500 mathematical articles. However, I must add that amongst Shakespeare’s characters, no two have any similarity, but in math research papers, there is a common yarn between a bunch of them.
Shakespeare is a global icon. All kinds of artifacts, mentioned in his plays, perhaps make a billion dollar industry. In the last 400 years, the British Empire that stretched like a rubber band to the farthest frontiers of the earth, has now shrunk back to the British isles, But Shakespeare’s popularity is not like that of a tempest whose fury eventually peters out. What a day that was!
Satish C. Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV 89154 Phone: 702-895-0383 Email: email@example.com
Adjunct Professor, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (2019 – ) UNLV Faculty Senate (2018 – 2021)
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