Saturday, April 2, 2011

Parallels on Hope

First Shake-Speare:

Bushy:   Despair not Madam,
Queen:   Who shall hinder me?
         I will despair and be at enmity
         With cozening Hope - he is a flatterer,
         A parasite, a keeper-back of death
         Who gently would dissolve the bands of life,
         Which false hope lingers in extremity.
 Richard II, 2.2.68-72

"For in a theme so bloody-faced as this
Conjectures, expectation and surmise
Of aids incertain, should not be admitted."
  2 Henry IV 1.3.22-4

"Thoughts speculative their unsure hopes relate".
  Macbeth 5.4.19

"Even here I will put off my hope and keep it
No longer for my flatterer:"
  The Tempest 3.3.7-8

now Bacon:
  "You will ask perhaps if it be not better when a man knows not what to expect, that he should divine well of the future, and rather hope than distrust, seeing that hopes makes the mind more tranquil...but such tranquility as depends on hope I reject as light and unsure".
  Meditationes Sacrae

Comment: The view expressed in all these passages is surely an idiosyncratic one - most people think it does no harm to hope. And note "unsure" in Macbeth and Bacon, and the similarity between "should not be admitted" in 2 Henry IV and "I reject" in Bacon. At the end of his life, years after the plays had been written, Bacon seems to have relented over his rejection of hope. For in his Essay on Regiment of Health, in a passage added in 1625, he advised "Entertain hopes". And in his History of Life and Death (1623) he wrote: "Hope is of all affections the most useful, and contributes most to prolong life, if it be not too often disappointed, but feed the imagination with the prospect of good". Its capacity for prolonging life had already been recognized by Shake-Speare in the passage from Richard II above, and also in 3 Henry VI, 4.4.16-7.

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