Monday, July 11, 2016

`What Discord Follows'

I hadn’t read Troilus and Cressida in several years. Like many readers, I regularly return to a handful of favorite plays, the core curriculum, and wander on impulse among the others. I brought an old copy of Troilus and Cressida with me to Dallas specifically because I hadn’t read it in a long time and know none of it from memory. It’s usually classed among the “problem plays,” and I had forgotten all about Ulysses’ great speech in Act I, Scene 3. In our motel room, two blocks from the scene of last week’s murder of five police officers, it read like a commentary on the madness in Dallas:

“. . . but when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander, 
What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
What raging of the sea! shaking of earth!
Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors, 
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked, 
Which is the ladder to all high designs, 
Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows!”

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