Culture and Poetry (Part 4)

In my previous post, I included a poem by Shakespeare, Under the Greenwood Tree.  This poem is from the play, As You Like It.

It is a song praising a life in the forest, away from the demands of the sophisticated court. The character, a wealthy member of the court, expresses the sentiment that it is much easier to bear the hardships imposed by nature than the cruelty all too often found in human society. This is a song in praise of a simple life lived in contentment, away from the demands of those in society.

However, this is not necessarily Shakespeare’s conception of happiness.  He was presenting the reality of the day: the Elizabethans were active, ambitious people constantly seeking wealth and power.  This piece represents the hero among us who has decided not to return to the everyday world but remain in the Adventure.  The hero knows that this is not happiness as the winter has “rough weather.”  The poem expresses the concern that the risks of returning to society are too great and a life lived in the adventure would be better than one lived among others in the renaissance culture of Elizabethan society.  Nonetheless, the life lived in the adventure is still harsh and not one of happiness.

What is the lesson learned?  That we must resist the temptation to remain in the adventure too long before attempting the return back to the everyday world.  This requires the virtue of justice.  This virtue is a concern for others around us.  Even though the society that we live in can be full of hardships and disappointments, we must persevere and try to return from our adventure so that our society can benefit from what we have learned along the way.  This virtue is less concerned with making us good people, and more concerned with our relationship with others around us.  Even though others may not understand or appreciate the road that we have taken, we must return to our society if we are to attain happiness and our society is to benefit.

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