The Undiscovered Country


In the crowded worlds his plays present we frequently think Shakespeare in making something of a force and power at work that in life we should think of as fortune or as fate. Unlooked for occurrences forward or ruin the best laid plans and we imagine imps at work. Sometimes a more certainly definable power seems to hold all in iron control. In tragedies and comedies both, many an utterance and circumstance point now to fortune, now to fate as the ultimate disposer, although many times when the indications are the clearest neither the persons in the play nor we are certain which it is. Pericles found armor cast up by the sea at the very moment it was needed to advance him towards the perfection that was his destiny. Antipholus found his twin and father and mother one by one in a distant city, and somehow so many lucky chances seem more than that. As the plays delight us with these suggestions of fate and providence and the sense of wonder we are led to reflect upon the possibility of still other agencies, whether there are beings called gods, or their ministers, directing fate or fortune, or else as much their subjects as the humans appear to be. Kent can swear by Apollo, Macbeth dreams of cherubim, Venus appears off Paphos, and sometimes it seems that as in Homer they too are among the armies of unalterable law. Or then again, they may be stirring the pother themselves.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.