Monday, September 05, 2005

Lincoln's Melancholy ... Fresh from the cover of this month's Atlantic Monthly: had Hamlet lived to be king, he'd have been Abraham Lincoln.

Update: It would seem some clarification is in order. Obviously there's no connection between the two where royalty is concerned, and further, there's scant correlation between the events of the play and the history of Lincoln's life. But when it comes to the anguish of introspection and the urgency of political action, I'm not sure literature has ever produced a greater character than Prince Hamlet, nor reality a greater human than Abraham Lincoln. Each knew well the isolation of power, and each felt acutely a profound separation from the "divinity which shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will." The Atlantic story makes no mention of this connection -- it's just a thought I've had for a while now -- but for myself at least, the essay's long-overdue emphasis on Lincoln's depression as a principle source of his political genius only illuminated that connection all the more.

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