Thursday, January 3, 2013

Five great darknesses in literature

Stuart Kelly is the literary editor of Scotland on Sunday and a freelance critic and writer. He is the author of The Book of Lost Books and Scott-Land.

One of five great darknesses in literature he identified for the Guardian:

There's a dissertation to be done on Shakespeare and darkness. So many scenes depend upon it – from Henry V touring the troops incognito, to the Porter in Macbeth unwittingly realising his role in murkier deeds, to the "darkness" of the Dark Lady. Night in Shakespeare is different from darkness – night is where identities are confused, conflated and sometimes confiscated. The bed-trick in Measure for Measure or All's Well That Ends Well is predicated upon not being able to see whom you're shagging; A Midsummer's Night Dream doesn't work if they're all in a suburban dining room. The play where darkness is most frequently mentioned is one which would have been seen in full daylight: King Lear. Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom, can't keep darkness at bay: "did the act of darkness with her", "the prince of darkness is a gentleman", "an angler on the lake of darkness". But the profound Shakesperean darkness is in The Tempest, a play played indoors, like all the late plays, and like them, full of ambiguous reconciliation. "This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine" says Prospero to Caliban. Is this appropriation or reconciliation?
Read about the other darknesses Kelly identified.

--Marshal Zeringue