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Shakespeare on love

In his play “Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare writes: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” The expression tells us that it is not destiny, but the fragility of human character, that forces the individual to act against the desires of his or her will. But in matters of love, there appears to be no opposition between serendipity and what the human heart dictates. Shakespeare simply means to say that young lovers must persevere until the right time comes. “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” he writes in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Humans are neither good nor evil, but when things fall apart, the world often crumbles for young lovers. Thus, when everything doesn’t work out right even if one firmly believes that one has done what is best for the relationship, the most logical way for two people is to find someone new. This new individual, it is hoped, will provide a fresh start. But regrets are often far too many in life. While a woman has to test the sincerity of a man, all the tragedy in falling in love may unfold again as she slowly realizes that he may not be the kind of person that she actually needs in her life.

To rebel against ill fate, most lovers will make that honest attempt to reconcile with the not-so-distant past. Falling in love is not easy, but falling out of love is far more difficult. But both will try to forgive each other and forget all the bad things and the sorrows that accompany them. A young woman may have hated all those years that have gone by, but she also realizes that she needs to go on with her life. Thus, the feeling deep inside will make her remember those times when love gave so much. But the commitment from the same man may no longer be there. Alas, many of our passions, as Shakespeare believed, often lead to wrong reasoning.

Eternal love is truly profound and unyielding, but it also has its dark side. So, all the pain will linger. It will hurt to leave someone. But it hurts more to be alone. And yet, a man’s stupid promise may not die out in a woman’s mind. What must she do then? Maybe she will try to be different this time. She will attempt to find some real comfort somewhere else in the universe, in books and all that, or even in another man’s embracea. But sooner or later, she will realize that it is not really the kind of life that she wants.

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare explores in a prominent way the idea of male dominance. Marriage is seen as the consummation of a woman’s life, while a man may go on doing what he wants. Against this convention, it is reasonable for a woman to tell herself that she is far better than any man. She might say, “I need not be serious in a relationship.” She might choose to do crazy things. But Shakespeare’s advice is this: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

When love speaks before all, young lovers will always find meaning in dying for someone. Gabriel García Márquez immortalized this line: “There is no greater glory than to die for love.” Death is not just something physical. It is always a spiritual thing. Eternity begins the moment one realizes that the beloved never really dies. “Eternity was in our lips and eyes,” Shakespeare declares in “Antony and Cleopatra.” For Shakespeare, eternity is not a unit of measure, but the things we actually live for. It is something that we hold within ourselves.

Rightly so, Shakespeare says that “love is blind, and lovers cannot see.” True love is about the person realizing that it is foolish not to see all the wonder and beauty that is life. But we are all sightless as to the fact that one can’t really be happy unless one knows how to master his or her fate. Shakespeare tells us that true love must always see past one’s imperfections: “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

Christopher Ryan Maboloc is assistant professor of philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University and the author of the three-volume “The Harshest Things You’ll Ever Learn about Love.”

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