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By William Shakespeare, Liang Shiqiu

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Additional info for All's Well That Ends Well (The Complete Shakespeare Translated by Liang Shiqiu, Book 12) (Bilingual Edition)

Sample text

In Heidegger’s terms, we are each a Sein-zum-Tode (being towards death). Death marks “the impossibility of any further possibilities” (Kearney, 1986, 35), the awareness of which creates Angst. This state of being suddenly becomes apparent in Hagberd when Bessie suggests the possibility that Harry may be dead: Only once she had tried pityingly to throw some doubt on that hope doomed to disappointment, but the effect of her attempt had scared her very much. All at once over that man’s face there came an expression of horror and incredulity, as though he had seen a crack open out in the firmament.

The fact that Conrad describes Bessie’s circumstances in terms of a hell metaphor and yet her existence is to be immutably mundane and unfulfilled draws a parallel with other works of literature. As in Henry James’s “The Beast in the Jungle” (1903), an empty life is the ultimate horror. In terms of drama, Bessie’s situation is like some of the vacuous domestic infernos in Ibsen or Strindberg, and maybe even the hell of other people and moral cowardice in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos (1944). Like Garcin, Inez and Estelle it is significant that Bessie closes the door upon herself: she does not follow Harry’s example and cut herself loose but rather walks voluntarily through a door that she knows is the portal of hell.

When he goes into the garden and knocks on the door he is attacked with the shovel. Bessie finds him “thrilling” (264), and, sexually stimulated, she speaks to him “in a brazen voice, which quavered” (271) or in “a quick, panting voice” (272). But when it is clear that Harry holds the idea of marriage and settling down in contempt, Bessie is denied the prospect of the sanctity that permits sexual expression and she shakes “all over with noiseless dry sobs” (273). At that moment her misery is ineffable and she is “dry”.

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