Shakespeare's Window into the Soul
Martin Lings
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Buy *Shakespeare's Window into the Soul: The Mystical Wisdom in Shakespeare's Characters* by Martin Lings online

Shakespeare's Window into the Soul: The Mystical Wisdom in Shakespeare's Characters
Martin Lings
Inner Traditions
Paperback
304 pages
September 2006
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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The late Martin Lings provides an in-depth reading of some of Shakespeare's later plays, from Henry IV to The Tempest, that explores how Shakespeare followed a more medieval tradition of the sacred, rather than the Renaissance trend toward humanism. It was Lings' belief that Shakespeare's use of esoteric symbolism in his later plays reflected the journey of the human soul to find union with the divine. He traces this theme through ten plays, also briefly visiting some of Shakespeare's earlier works that illustrate this idea.

Lings devotes a chapter to each of the ten plays he discusses and includes some additional chapters, the first of which provides some context on medieval versus Renaissance ideologies in regards to art. His second chapter, "Shakespeare's Outlook," reflects how some Shakespearean characters' words and actions may actually be Shakespeare expressing his own thoughts and beliefs. He ends the book with observations about the performance and production of the plays and in the final chapter reiterates some of his earlier points, also explaining how Shakespeare may have been perceived in his own time, as opposed to how he is perceived in modern times.

Lings' interpretation of Shakespeare's later plays is enough to inspire re-readings of familiar works and the reading of unfamiliar ones. However, as Lings explains in his Preface, he is concerned with the total impact of Shakespeare's body of work and how the plays are performed. Because of this, he continuously makes connections between plays - both early and later works - to show them as variations of the same theme, the drama of the soul's journey to heaven.

It is worth noting that The Prince of Wales wrote the foreword to this text, a mercifully brief introduction in which he aptly describes Lings' book as being perhaps too esoteric for many people's tastes. As a former Shakespeare scholar, I found this book difficult to follow at times. Lings liberally discusses Dante and his relevance to Shakespeare, so having some knowledge of Dante's work is crucial to understanding this text. Copious footnotes are scattered throughout the text as well, a feature that I found particularly jarring. This is only worth picking up if you are a true disciple of the Bard and want to read as much scholarship as possible.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Karyn Johnson, 2006

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