Orlando’s Lesson

A short post this week, and maybe none next week, because I have to travel to care for my father, who has suffered a turn in his health. So who do you take with you, I ask myself, on such a trip into terrain where much will be unexpected? I think of the magical places in Shakespeare and ask which fits. Not Prospero’s island, because I’m pretty sure there won’t be some controlling magus to manage the action. And probably not the forest in Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is no country for young lovers, where I’m going.

It’s the forest of Arden I think of, where everyone goes when court politics turn too toxic. That forest in As You Like It is a refuge for people displaced, whose lives are going badly. The hero in Shakespeare’s Arden is Rosalind, daughter of the deposed Duke, who disguises herself as a man and ends up being almost the Prospero character, without being a colonizer (or mostly not). Rosalind would be great company, but I’m more in need of her lover, Orlando. Orlando is running away from his evil brother Oliver. He enters the forest carrying on his back the old family retainer, Adam. Adam has generously offered Orlando his life savings to fund their escape, but now he’s too exhausted even to be carried further. They’re both half starved.

Orlando goes to forage and comes upon the company of the deposed Duke, who are just starting dinner. Orlando is not accustomed to generosity, so he springs upon them with his sword drawn, demanding food. Duke Senior, as he’s called, tells him that if he puts away his sword and asks nicely, they will be happy to help him. Orlando sees the error of his ways. It’s a moment of zen-instant enlightenment.

For all its simplicity, or maybe because of it, that fable is good company to take when embarking into the world of airlines and healthcare institutions. Nobody in this world is exactly comfortable, all are on some kind of edge. But people are willing to help, so far as they can, though it’s often difficult to figure how far that actually is. Until Orlando enters the Duke’s camp, he has had to rely on strength to get as much as he has, which isn’t much. Adam begins his moral education, the Duke plays a short but pivotal part, and Rosalind will take it from there. Orlando’s later example of risking himself for another will redeem the evil Oliver.

They all have the good luck to be in a comedy, and that is one big advantage in life. An actor wrote of the need to play your part as if you didn’t know the end of the story. In life, we don’t have to act that ignorance. We don’t even know what genre we’re in: comedy, tragedy, satire, or romance. I doubt this next week will be a farce, though I’m sure it will have those moments. Hope to be back before too long.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s