What a Piece of Work is Man


I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth,
forgone all custom of exercises;
and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition
that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory;
this most excellent canopy, the air, look you,
this brave o’erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire,
why, it appears no other thing to me
than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man.
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty.
In form and moving, how express and admirable.
In action, how like an angel.
In apprehension, how like a god.
The beauty of the world,
the paragon of animals.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Man delights not me…

Act II, Scene 2

Shakespeare used prose very strategically in his plays. Without cadence, prose produces poignancy, and draws the ear to tell you that someone is saying something important, whether that something is funny, or crazy, or heartbreaking.

I have tried to find words of my own the last few days about the horrifying tragedy at Pulse Orlando.

But I can’t.

There is only sadness, and disappointment, and this speech. This speech has not left my thoughts.

I find myself nihilistic, and losing faith in humanity. I used to take this speech as the sardonic ravings of a madman.

But now, I see Hamlet as truly bereft. And I understand his words. Though I wish I didn’t.

To my friends in the LGBTQ+ community: I love you.
To the LGBTQ+ community everywhere: I love you.

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