‘As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods’ – Stolen by Private Tutor
You get the picture?
Private English Tutor slumped in comfortable armchair, blazing fire, tumbler of ‘a bit o’gud’ in hand, butterfly-like mind flittering and skittering through his favourite book of quotations.
Man can climb to the highest summits, but he cannot dwell there long.
Candida – George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
On a purely physical level he is correct, you can only be on the top of your physical game for so long. Thinking about some of the great sports people that have been adored by millions we could name Pele in football, Babe Ruth in Baseball, Carl Jenkins in athletics, Rod Laver in tennis – the list could go on and on. The common denominator amongst them is that they have all peered down from the summit at the masses below but eventually, they themselves, made their way down from the peak and watched others passing them on the way up.
Once I spread my thoughts, I wandered through the door marked ‘Literature’. Here things are a little more problematic. Shakespeare, Austen and Browning are people I would put at the summit. Problem – did they remain there or did they eventually take George Bernard’s slippery slope downwards?
The chronology of Shakespeare’s plays is problematic but it is commonly thought that his last three plays were:
* The Tempest 1610-1611
* Henry VIII 1613
* The Two Noble Kinsmen 1613
In terms of modern popularity The Tempest is the play that puts most bums on seats, so perhaps the latter two suggest that he was indeed on that slippery downward slope. All very theoretical and subjective though.
Jane Austen’s last two novels were:
* Mansfield Park 1814
* Northanger Abbey 1817
There are great literary mutterings and chunterings about Mansfield Park being her masterpiece. So was she on her way down the slippery slope with her later Northanger Abbey? Again, all very subjective.
As for Robert Browning’s Asolando (his last published work), largely overlooked today in favour of The Ring and the Book, published almost twenty years earlier. Again, all very subjective.
The silver screen is home to many of today’s modern day heroes. When we think of those on the summit, names such as Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench come to mind. Arguably, all three continue perched on the peak and peer down through the clouds at us mere mortals. Will they be subject to a fall from great heights if their next film is not as good as their last or does their body of work ensure a permanent place at the summit?
Enough of the gods, what about me and you? Yes – You! Are you at the peak ready for the slippery slope or are you straining you neck ever upwards in search of the zenith?
As Malvolio says in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
This private English tutor wonders why he doesn’t readily slip into any of those three!