What A Piece of Work!
In church today, our first reading was the whole day-by-day creation story from the Book of Genesis (read beautifully by Vaughn, with her Granada accent). The creation of humans in God’s image made me think, as I often do, of famous literature I’ve read and taught.
In Act 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark gives a little speech that seems taken from Genesis — he makes the speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who’ve come to spy on him for the King and Queen. He’s probably trying to communicate to the King and Queen that he’s depressed, but the first part of what Hamlet says is so very lovely:
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
This famous quote from Shakespeare was incorporated, words unchanged, into the musical Hair, and you can hear it here: