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Thursday July 7 2005 09:51 IST

By Karmayogi

A young student asked his learned professor why Shakespeare was called a great poet. The professor was impressed by the curiosity of a questioning mind, but in spite of his vast erudition, he had no answer to give. He knew, he said, that Shakespeare was great, but was not able to explain it in rational terms. Samuel Johnson in his famous preface to Shakespeare, compared his works to the abundant wealth of the forest, but did not define what his greatness was due to. Sri Aurobindo in Vol. 12 of the Centenary set entitled, Upanishads, tries to explain the theory of creation or the process of creation. He then transfers the argument to Shakespeares works. He said Parabrahman in Shakespeare wrote, which is received by the Parabrahman in the readers. Hence, it is of eternal value.

A student who read these pages - 33 to 43 - said there Sri Aurobindo not only explained how Shakespeare wrote but, how one can become Shakespeare if he chooses. It is on page 43 that He gave His greatest argument - Shakespeares writing had no purpose in view. His words have become household words today because he spoke the eternal truths of life in immortal phrases, as Whoever loved that loved not at first sight. Nothing that Shakespeare wrote was not found in proverbs, fiction and the wisdom of the culture. He brought those truths to life in ordinary conversation in unforgettable words that made them live forever. The word has a form and emerges in sound. The form blending with sound acquiring perfection gives birth to a melody which the human ear, having heard once, does not forget. It makes an indelible impression. To be able to write from Parabrahman in such a way that the Parabrahman in the reader will emerge on the surface to receive it is great writing. All great poets are of that mould.

When Doordarshan serialised the Mahabharata, it had an ever-increasing audience. Great literature educates by entertaining without appearing to instruct. Education is the yoga of the society. Entertaining education is the experiencing of yogic Ananda without the rigours of its austerity. A society attaining to decades of peace becomes prosperous. That prosperity generates culture of good will. Over the decades, the good will of the society that came to stay emerges in a pioneering individual as good literature that becomes great. The period of Elizabeth I was one such. Stability, Peace, Prosperity, Culture enjoyed for long by a society enables it to create great literature that becomes immortal. The Ramayana, the Mahabharatha, Shakuntala, etc. rose in India thus. The great Sangam literature of Tamil Nadu is of that classical type. Someone asked Sri Aurobindo whether He was Shakespeare in a previous birth. There was no answer. In his plays, the blank verse increases with the passage of time. In The Winters Tale, the last play, all but two lines were blank verse.

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