Friday, May 13, 2011

Till then, Think of the World!

A couple weeks ago we made the most of our first really sunny day in Portland with a lazy stroll around downtown all afternoon.

We hit some of the favorites like South Park Block on PSU's campus, Pioneer Square, and the Central Library. The fountain in the picture is from the Standard Building plaza.

On this stellar day in Portland we also scored an equally beautiful 1853 publishing of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

The timing couldn't have been better.

We are going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend. I had been wanting to revisit Julius Caesar before we see the play. I only vaguely remember reading it in high school.

It has been refreshing to read Shakespeare again. You don't encounter this kind of elegance in writing very often. The words are not content to merely be read. They stir your tongue; begging to roll off your lips; begging to be spoken.

One obscure line in particular grabbed me. Cassius's farewell to Brutus at the end of Act 1 Scene 2:
"...till then, think of the world!" 
At first this phrase was... odd. What does it mean to "think of the world"? The first answer that came to mind was, of course, another question.

In Cassius' historical context, how would one understand the concept of "the world"?

This lit up my brain with all kinds of awesome. But why stop there...

  • What was "the world" to Cassius in 44 BC?
  • What was the world when the play was written by Shakespeare in 1600 AD?
  • What was the world when this edition was published in 1853?
  • And how different the world is today in 2011?
What do you think are the major paradigm shifts through the centuries that have changed the way humanity understands "the world"?

I haven't formulated a satisfying answer to this question. But in conclusion, I will say, I don't think Cassius was intending his farewell to be taken literally by Brutus; I don't think he was literally suggesting that Brutus ponder the concept of "the world".

A general summary of the scene as it relates to the farewell: Cassius has been berating Caesar, simultaneously inflating Brutus' pride. So it strikes me as an inspirational, if not grandiose, farewell. In modern terms, maybe analogous to: "I'll see you later; and don't be discouraged, you can do anything that you set your mind to!"

Do correct me if I'm wrong. I don't fancy myself a Shakespeare expert.

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