Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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In Honour of Shakespeare.

The best thing I could say in honour of Shakespeare, the man, is that he believed in Brutus, and cast not a shadow of suspicion on the kind of virtue which Brutus represents!  It is to him that Shakespeare consecrated his best tragedy.  It is at present still called by a wrong name, to him, and to the most terrible essence of lofty morality.  Independence of soul!  that is the question at issue!  No sacrifice can be too great there : one must be able to sacrifice to it even one's dearest friend, although he be the grandest of men, the ornament of the world, the genius without peer, if one really loves freedom as the freedom of great souls, and if this freedom be threatened by him : it is thus that Shakespeare must have felt!  The elevation in which he places Caesar is the most exquisite honour he could confer upon Brutus ; it is thus only that he lifts into vastness the inner problem of his hero, and similarly the strength of soul which could cut this knot!  And was it actually political freedom that impelled the poet to sympathy with Brutus, and made him the accomplice of Brutus?  Or was political freedom merely a symbol for something inexpressible?  Do we perhaps stand before some sombre event or adventure of the poet's own soul, which has remained unknown, and of which he only cared to speak symbolically?  What is all of Hamlet's melancholy in comparison with the melancholy of Brutus!  and perhaps Shakespeare also knew this, as he knew the other, by experience!  Perhaps he also had his dark hour and his bad angel, just as Brutus had them!  But whatever similarities and secret relationships of that kind there may have been, Shakespeare cast himself on the ground and unworthy and alien in presence of the aspect and virtue of Brutus : he has inscribed the testimony thereof in the tragedy itself.  He has twice brought in a poet in it, and twice heaped upon him such an impatient and extreme contempt, that it sounds like a cry - like the cry of self contempt.  Brutus, even Brutus loses patience when the poet appears, self important, pathetic and obtrusive, as poets usually are persons who seem to abound in the possibilities of greatness, even moral greatness, and nevertheless rarely attain even to ordinary uprightness in the philosophy of practice and of life.  He may know the times, but I know his temper, "What should the wars do with these jiggling fools / Companion hence!"  shouts Brutus.  We may translate this back into the soul of the poet that wrote it.  
 

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