An Idiot’s Tale

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The famous lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth are great poetry .The multiplicity of images in the lines confuses a reader a little but in the end it all seems to add up to a beautiful meaning. The book image in which time moves in pages of tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow is followed by the candle image, the brief candle of man’s life ,its light only illumining the way to dusty death .In the brief candle’s light ,man becomes a shadow ,an insubstantial figure depending upon a real figure for its existence. Life is but a walking shadow, which moves as a mere reflection of the real thing. And then suddenly the actor’s image comes –a favorite Shakespearean image which recurs in many of his plays. Life is but a poor bit player on the stage that comes and goes .He stays for a while and while he stays he makes a fool of himself by “showing off” as though the show will go on for ever.

The best image is of the idiot’s tale that comes with a lot of sound and fury .An idiot’s tale is full of sound and fury but in the end it means nothing.

As an undergraduate, what puzzled me was this “idiot “whose tale was supposed to be our life. In the traditional Indian theatre tradition a play is first introduced by a sutradhari . During the introduction and several times during the enactment of the play the sutradhari speaks out as though the action on the stage is his tale which unfolds as he speaks. The sutradhari no doubt does a lot of sound and fury but his tale does not “signify nothing”. It is more plausible that man’s life is merely compared here to a story narrated by an idiot who cannot make a coherent whole out of it to bring forth meaning .Life is not an idiot’s tale( a tale of an idiot), but a tale told by an idiot. May be, there is a grand design behind it all but one does not expect an idiot to make meaning out of it. The sutradhari is making a big mess of his presentation.