It was possible to explore the ‘great tradition’ of the English novel and believe that in doing so you were addressing questions of fundamental value — questions which were of vital relevance to the lives of men and women wasted in fruitless labour in the factories of industrial capitalism. But it was also conceivable that you were destructively cutting yourself off from such men and women, who might be a little slow to recognize how a poetic enjambement enacted a movement of physical balancing.

One of the striking aspects of the lines is the way they make us see a tree, with its pattern of twigs, leaves and branches, as a visual image of the invisible roots of language.

We do not know whether Melville’s work is of universal interest because we have not reached the end of history yet, despite the best efforts of some of our political leaders.

Jesus hung out with whores and social outcasts, was remarkably casual about sex, disapproved of the family… urged us to be laid-back about property and possessions, warned his followers that they too would die violently, and insisted that the truth kills and divides as well as liberates. He also cursed self-righteous prigs and deeply alarmed the ruling class

Macbeth as a whole is awash with questions, sometimes questions responded to by another question, which helps to generate an atmosphere of uncertainty, anxiety and paranoid suspicion.

When the Dublin-born Beckett was asked by a Parisian journalist whether he was English, he replied, ‘On the contrary.

The theatre can teach us some truth, but it is the truth of the illusory nature of our existence. It can alert us to the dream-like quality of our lives, their brevity, mutability and lack of solid grounds. As such, by reminding us of our mortality, it can foster in us the virtue of humility.

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