Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parallel - Miracles in Adversity


Kent:  Nothing almost sees miracles
          But misery
  King Lear 2.2.163

  It was an high speech of Seneca..."That the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired. Bona rerum secundarum, optabilia; adversarum, mirabilia. Certainly if miracles be the command over nature, they appear most in adversity.
  Essay on Adversity

  He [Christ] restored motion to the lame, light to the blind, speech to the dumb, health to the sick, cleanness to the lepers, sound mind to them that were possessed of devils, life to the dead. There was no miracle of judgment but all of mercy and all upon the human body. For with reference to riches he designed not to work any miracles except that one about giving tribute to Caesar.
  Meditationes Sacrae

Comment:  The Arden editor paraphrases the Lear quote as "for, when we are in despair, any relief seems miraculous (Kittredge)". But Bacon clearly meant, not that miracles seem greatest in adversity, but that they are wrought most often in adversity. So it is a reasonable surmise that Shake-Speare meant the same. I think Capell got it right when he wrote of the Lear text: "I suspect that 'see' is used in the sense of experience, a sense it often bears. In that case the meaning may be 'miracles are hardly ever wrought but on behalf of the wretched' ".

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