Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Shakespeare's Memory: What was the Playwright's Mind Really Like?" by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges, Jorge Luis. "Shakespeare's Memory: What was the Playwright's Mind Really Like?" New Yorker 13 April 1998: 66-69.

While we're in Borges territory, here's another interesting piece he wrote that reflects on Shakespeare. In keeping with Bardfilm's Fair Use Policy, I'm not supplying the entire short story—even though it's quite short (just four pages in The New Yorker). But there is a link to the story at the end of this post that subscribers can view—or you could request it through Inter-Library Loan. 

The story itself is somewhere between magical realism and science fiction. Our narrator has been offered the chance to have all of Shakespeare's memories. It's something that has been passed down from person to person since 1616. He accepts the offer, and he slowly starts to have Shakespeare's memories make their way into his conscious mind. It takes a while, but he sees more and more of what Shakespeare saw and feels more and more of what Shakespeare felt.

Eventually, he passes on the "gift" (I'm using air quotes—well, actually, I'm actually using actual quotes—to signify that it turns out not to be the "gift" [there I go again] we might expect it to be) to someone else.

It's an interesting take on the theme of whether it's possible to understand an individual across the centuries.

Again, I can't give you the whole thing, but here's a representative column of the story:

Links: The Article at the New Yorker (subscription required).

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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