by William Shakespeare is a play about a king and his company swearing off earthly delights for three years to pursue study. I listened on Librivox which is hard to follow since you can’t see the actors’ faces nor see the action, but at least the voices are distinctive. In spite of losing track of a lot of it, I gleaned the following.
Biron argues that studying women is more profitable than studying books.
Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun
That will not be deep-search’d with saucy looks:
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others’ books
These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.
He thinks truth is too bright to conceive through study, that all study will yield is a memory of names. But a woman’s eye will shine with the nature of truth. He also argues that aceticism in study will yield nothing but pain.
Perhaps he is right that gaining all knowledge and mysteries is nothing without love. Love needs an incarnated object, apparently. Maybe this is why we are encouraged to read the lives of the Saints more than theology books. Perhaps with their truth, we can understand the latter. Surely he is not forswearing all study. Here is one tribute:
Holofernes: This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a
foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures,
shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions,
revolutions: these are begot in the ventricle of
memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and
delivered upon the mellowing of occasion. But the
gift is good in those in whom it is acute, and I am
thankful for it.
SIR NATHANIEL Sir, I praise the Lord for you; and so may my
parishioners; for their sons are well tutored by
you, and their daughters profit very greatly under
you: you are a good member of the commonwealth.
Ah, but what are forms, figures, ideas, etc. without an object of desire?And when the gentlemen finally swear their allegiance to the ladies of choice, what is the price? 12 months of asceticism! But with a person, not ink and paper, as the goal.