Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shakespeare and Suicide

Rereading William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra brought to mind how many suicides the Bard wrote in his tragedies. There are about a dozen suicides in Shakespeare’s writings that are portrayed out or talked about.

On the subject of suicide, the Canadian Mental Health Association says this:

"Experts in the field suggest that a suicidal person is feeling so much pain that they can see no other option. They feel that they are a burden to others, and in desperation see death as a way to escape their overwhelming pain and anguish. The suicidal state of mind has been described as constricted, filled with a sense of self-hatred, rejection, and hopelessness."

Some of Shakespeare’s characters are historical, thereby their suicides are a historical fact.

Antony and Cleopatra, two famous lovers in history took their own lives to escape being captured alive and put on display in Rome. Antony had just suffered a major military defeat and hearing Cleopatra was dead fell on his sword. Cleopatra killed herself after witnessing the death of Antony.

Neither, it seemed, believed life was worth living and suicide was an honorable option.

Taking your own life was a very Roman thing to do. In Julius Caesar both Brutus and Cassius fell on their sword after being defeated by Antony and Octavian’s forces. It was probably a more viable for Brutus who heard his wife, Portia, had killed herself swallowing fire.

Lady Macbeth took her own life (though we do not witness it) presumably because she could not live with the fact that she, along with her husband, murdered King Duncan.

Shakespeare’s most famous couple, Romeo and Juliette are young people in love.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says this about youth and suicide:

"Adolescence is a time of dramatic change. The journey from child to adult can be complex and challenging. Young people often feel tremendous pressure to succeed at school, at home and in social groups. At the same time, they may lack the life experience that lets them know that difficult situations will not last forever. Mental health problems commonly associated with adults, such as depression, also affect young people. Any one of these factors, or a combination, may become such a source of pain that they seek relief in suicide."

Romeo and Juliette are like a young Antony and Cleopatra. They do not wish to live without the other.

It is not a coincidence that these are classified as tragedies. Suicide is a tragedy. There is no honor in it. In some of these cases these characters take their own lives when they cannot get their own way. It is a selfish act. It is like a child playing with others who, when they can’t get their own way, takes their ball and goes home.

None of these characters had the character to live on despite pain and hardship and loss. They may have not loved wisely, but too well; however, they should have loved their own lives more.

Life is not always easy. To live on, to endure says a lot about who we are.

Stephen Gaspar's books are available on Amazon

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lenten Mystery

The season of Lent has begun and we turn our thoughts to Christ. It is a time of reflection and we take steps to renew ourselves. It is a time of the year when I think of The Case of the Empty Tomb which was published some years ago.

The Case of the Empty Tomb is a homage to the old style detective stories of Chandler and Hammett. Tribune Claudius Maximus is the detective looking into the disappearance of a recently crucified Jew who's body is missing from its resting place.

Maximus has been exiled from Rome to Jerusalem by Caesar, and Maximus believes the best way to get back into the emperor's good graces is to solve this case.

 Getting answers is not easy. The Jews aren't talking and even his own people are reluctant to give the tribune any help. The more opposition Maximus encounters the more he is determined to get answers.

Here is a recent review for The Case of the Empty Tomb.

If you like Lindsey Davis or John Maddox Roberts books, you will like this Stephen Gaspar book.
The Case of the Empty Tomb is a worthy member of the rapidly expanding Roman Mystery genre.
The book has nice pacing and unfolds evenly. What a case for our introduction to Tribune Claudius Maximus. A now very famous corpse is missing and a disgraced son of Rome must find it quickly, and perhaps he will be allowed to return home if he can solve the case and survive the political world of Tiberian Jerusalem.

I would very much like to read more adventures of Claudius Maximus.

Books by Stephen Gaspar are available on Amazon