Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shakespeare and Burroughs

Having just finished studying Romeo & Juliet with my grade 10 English class, we were watching the Luhrmann video rendition of it [the one that stars DiCaprio]. One of the soliloquies reminded me of a book I read last year; The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.

The soliloquy under consideration is spoken by Friar Laurence in Act III Scene iii. Romeo has just killed Juliet's cousin Tybalt. Realizing that he has further jeopardized their tenuous marriage, Romeo has a 'hissy fit' in Friar Laurence's cell and prepares to kill himself; or feigns doing so.

Friar Laurence, appalled by his actions, verbally accosts him:
Hold thy desperate hand:
Art thou a man? thy form cries out thou art:
Thy tears are womanish; thy wild acts denote

The unreasonable fury of a beast:
Unseemly woman in a seeming man!
After chastising the young Montague, Friar Laurence tries to help Romeo percieve his plight with a different perspective:
What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;

There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,

But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:

The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend

And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:

He follows this perspective altering dialogue with the words that reminded me of Burrough's classic work on contentment:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;

But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,

Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:

Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

Specifically, this reminded me of a point Burroughs makes while discussing what Christian contentment consisted of: "It is not so much the removing of the affliction that is upon us as the changing of the affliction, the metamorphosing of the affliction, so that it is quite turned and changed into something else."

Friar Laurence is trying not to remove Romeo's affliction, but rather he is trying to metamorphisize his affliction into something else. For the Christian, this is a task for grace, "There is a power of grace to turn this affliction into good; it takes away the sting and poison of it." Burroughs goes on to say,
Oh, take heed you do not speak in a scornful way of the ways of God; grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies. Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jude! I love that last quote by Burroughs. His insight into grace is just marvelous.