I am really enjoying teaching The Tempest this term, it's a play I particularly love. I also hope to answer the question some might voice - why bother to study Shakespeare?
When we have a clear sense of measure we know when it's time to act and the time to cease from action. One of the great arts of life is in knowing when to stop, but also when to start. To avoid acting when action is necessary is the best way to destroy the opportunity to develop and achieve. Developing the habit of putting things off involves turning away from the energy given. By turning away from the energy given, less and less energy becomes available. Without that energy nothing can be done.
"By accident most strange bountiful Fortune, Now my dear lady, hath mine enemies brought to this shore; and by my prescience I find my zenith doth depend upon A most auspicious star, whose influence If now I court not, but omit, my fortunes Will ever after droop."
In these lines from the Tempest the magician, Prospero, recognises that his time for action has arrived. He recognises this because of his knowledge of the stars. Through the position of these he acknowledges that his fortune will fade, not just temporarily, but for ever more, unless he takes clear and firm action, now, in this present moment. Fortune in his terms is not financial reward, but a goddess. Her name is Fortuna, and she is the principle of chance. The wheel of fortune rises and falls. In this time of action, Prospero recognises that for him the wheel of fortune is rising and the planets are aligned in sympathy with his objectives.
Fortuna is associated with the planets of Jupiter and Venus, and though he talks about his enemies, it is the spirit of these two gods that rules Prospero's actions. Jupiter is the god of light and of the day as well as thunder and lightning. He rules over the councils of the gods. He is the final dispenser of justice and therefore he thunders. He takes the prime site in our solar system and as such he is also associated with that other quality of justice, balance, and it is the balanced view that prevails in Prospero's dispensation of justice. He tempers justice with mercy and performs not an act of cruel revenge upon his 'enemies' but a judgement which brings about rightful law under the rule of love, and in this Venus plays her inevitable part.
Our actions may not have the consequence of Prospero's actions, the realignment of his dukedom in accordance with divine principles, but this doesn't mean that the spirit in which he acts cannot be the same spirit in which we act, vitally alive to the present need, acting when action is possible in the spirit of reason, justice and love.
Ruled by the power of inertia, all this is impossible. If we put off the moment for action the energy is lost. Alternatively we may not so much act, but rather react, and when our reactions are ill-conceived, driven by no other motive than a personal one, the result must carry with them all the qualities of their original inception. There is a third alternative. In rather stark terms all three are described in that source of great wisdom, the Bhagavad Gita;
Purity brings happiness. Passion commotion and Ignorance, which obscures wisdom, leads to a life of failure. When Purity is in the ascendant, the man evolves; when Passion, he neither evolves nor degenerates; when Ignorance, he is lost.
The indication given by these verses is that to achieve something of lasting consequence in life we must do all that we can to encourage that power which is here described as Purity. Elsewhere this same power is associated with clarity, stillness and lucidity. These are the qualities associated with the mind when the light of reason rules.
Later in the Tempest Prospero says this: "Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th' quick Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury Do I take part; the rarer action is In virtue than in vengeance". Rarer in this context doesn't only mean unusual but also finer and nobler and more wise. It's by these qualities that our actions must be ruled.
So that is one of the reasons I study Shakespeare, because I learn from it and it contains wisdom. It also brings together a lifetime of study for me from classical myths to Hindu scriptures, everything that fascinates, informs and enthralls. Study refines the mind and adds depth to our being. It is not just about passing exams and getting a job - even though that is also important.