Pablo Neruda

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What is the thesis of Pablo Neruda's "Shakespeare, Prince of Light"?

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Pablo Neruda writes an ode to Shakespeare in the essay, "Shakespeare, Prince of Light." The Chilean author holds Shakespeare above all others as the bard who assumed responsibility for dreams and the wisdom of his age. The late Chilean poet and author wrote this essay as a paean to the English one.

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Contained within his volume, Passions and Impressions, Pablo Neruda's essay, "Shakespeare, Prince of Light," is an ode to perhaps the most revered author in history. This is its thesis: William Shakespeare stands above all others as the bard who assumed "responsibility for the dreams and the wisdom of the age" in which he lived. The late Chilean poet and author wrote this essay as a paean to Shakespeare. Shakespeare produced a body of work that, hundreds of years later, remains as relevant in its themes and as brilliant in its exposition as any literature in history. Neruda was acknowledging the role of Shakespeare in the history of literature and the latter's unquestioned influence on succeeding generations. Note, for example, in the following quote from Neruda's essay the respect the Chilean author has for the English one:

"One reason more, then, to love William Shakespeare, the greatest of all human beings. There will always be time and space to explore in Shakespeare, to lose ourselves, or to begin the long journey around his statue . . . And though we may go the long way without reaching the end, we always return with hands filled with fragrance and blood, with flowers and sorrows, with mortal treasures."

Shakespeare's legacy, Neruda states, is second to none. As all students of English literature know, Shakespeare's influence is inestimable, his phrases a permanent part of the modern lexicon. For the man who was noted for his odes to socks, his cat, and the activity of ironing, one might anticipate that an essay titled "Shakespeare, Prince of Light" might be satirical in intent. It is not. It is a heartfelt ode from one writer of the common era to another writer of an earlier period. 

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The thesis of “Shakespeare, Prince of Light” is that William Shakespeare was such a gifted poet that his works still have value and relevance centuries later.

Many people have celebrated the works of Shakespeare.  Neruda explores the concept of Shakespeare’s exceptional skill as a poet.  His premise is that Shakespeare’s works still have meaning to us not just because of the content, but because of the way the words are used. 

At one point, Neruda imagines what he would say to the great Shakespeare himself.

“And across four centuries, I would say to him, “Greetings, Prince of Light!  Good health, sir itinerant actor.  We are the heirs to your great dreams; we dream them still.  Your words do honor to the entire world….”

The human psyche seeks out poetry, because it contains both meaning and emotion.  Through his words, Shakespeare is able to talk directly to the human soul.  As a poet himself, Neruda understood and appreciated this.  He understands the impact the works had on our culture and our literature.

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