4 Reasons Shakespeare is My Shrink

Few men in the history of writing exert as much influence as William Shakespeare.

Timeless and accessible even today (if you can handle some “thee” and “thou”), the English poet and playwright’s reach stretches so far T.S. Eliot once wrote “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.”

Respected in his own time and magnified to worldwide renown by Victorian Britain’s fascination long after his death, he used a sly pen to cut to the heart of life for generations to come.

On this, the 446th anniversary of his baptism in Stratford-upon-Avon, I have pulled some of my favorite lines from his plays to comment on his words’ lasting veracity.

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.
All’s Well That Ends Well
, Act I, Scene i

Whether your wounds are physical or psychological, you must usually look within to find healing. Asking someone else to “fix” you is akin to surrendering–if not flat-out ignoring–your inborn ability to mend injuries and grow.

Simply put, the propulsion of internal motivation is exponentially stronger than the exertion of external force. Instances where one person effects lasting change on another are far outnumbered by the attempts to do so. (Ask any woman that’s dated a “bad boy.”)

Be willing to ask for help, though. There are times all of us require the boost of a helping hand.

How poor are they that have not patience!  What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
Othello, Act II, Scene iii

Regardless of what is going on in your life, a fair measure of composure is necessary to accomplish anything. Diligent pursuit of a goal must be married to a calm mind. Steady focus on the end–instead of flailing grasps at shortcuts–provides the surest means to achieve it.

When crossing a country or changing your life, always bear in mind “To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.” (Henry VIII, Act I, Scene i)

We know what we are, not what we may become.
Hamlet, Act IV, Scene v

In the midst of day-to-day struggles, it is easy to forget what you’re capable of. Unable to see the whole way, you are tempted to allow your history and/or present reality to unconsciously shape your future. You settle for what is familiar, afraid of what may result from your efforts.

This quote hints at what every great entrepreneur or athlete knows: only by pushing yourself to the limit can you understand how far you’ll go. Conquering your own uncertainty is the first step to flourishing.

O Lord, that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!
As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii

This is the most difficult to apply, by far. The ability to maintain a spirit of gratitude while you endure trials and tribulations is quite possibly the toughest challenge of human existence.

It is acceptable to be unhappy with a situation, but it is arrogant to deny the value of a lesson. Even when you’re struggling to figure out what can be learned, appreciate the fact you’ll be better for it and save yourself much in the way of pain and anguish.

With uncommon grace and wit, Shakespeare ably reflected the scope of humanity’s experience.

He told stories of kings and commoners, wealthy and poor, lovestruck and cynical. From thousands of couplets, five words from As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii, ring truest:

“All the world’s a stage.”

How will you act on it?


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6 Responses to “4 Reasons Shakespeare is My Shrink”

  1. 1 Erica April 26, 2010 at 9:59 am

    This is my favorite so far, Ike.

    • 2 Jason Eichacker April 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks, Erica! I thought it appropriate to discuss the profundity of Shakespeare, even though I believe great truths are always the same regardless of the distance–culturally or chronologically–between the messengers.

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