Prayer or Despair?

Hi Marco,

Thanks for making these fascinating and compelling talks.

I'd like to discuss your interpretation of the ending of 'The Tempest', in particular the lines:

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

In your talk, you focus on the phrase 'my ending is despair', but say nothing about the following line. Prospero is pleading for the audience's mercy, of course, but there is a bigger point here about Shakespeare's philosophy. His plays are imbued with Christianity, and surely these lines should be read with this in mind, not as an example of a sort of gloomy existentialism where we have to invent our own meaning and purpose for our lives? I think it was in the same talk that you mentioned Macbeth's despairing words about life's being 'a sound and fury, signifying nothing'. However, I would interpret this as Shakespeare showing that Macbeth has destroyed any sense of order or purpose by rejecting the teachings of Catholicism, particularly the teaching that it is possible for him to repent and be forgiven, as the traitor Cawdor was at the beginning of the play.

Anthony

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