The Magazine

A Bard's Story

How Shakespeare dramatized man's fate.

Jul 30, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 43 • By AARON MACLEAN
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This pregnant cohabitation of different meanings in "will" is, for Pack, representative of a tension present throughout the plays: That though our desires may not be met, we still possess the power to alter our attitude to our conditions, thus nobly holding on to one sort of will, in face of the failure to satisfy another. And when the dying Hamlet cries out to Horatio not to drink the poison, asking instead that he "in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, / To tell my story" and Horatio accepts, we encounter the essential literary act--the act of storytelling--which is William Shakespeare's legacy to us. A character's epiphany, his acceptance of his life, in the face of the great wordless mystery approaching him, and his achievement of a sort of transcendental peace, becomes our intellectual possession with a little bit of time left still to struggle.

Aaron MacLean, a Marshall scholar at Ox ford during 2003-06, is a writer in Virginia.