It's the fifth and final act of Shakespear's King Lear, the part of the play when nearly all will turn to dust.
Spoiler alert if you haven't read/seen the play. (And if you haven't run out and do that. Come back her someday when you have. Or just keep reading. It won't hurt the dramatic
Lear will have a moment of lucid understanding and the briefest of reconciliations with his loving, kind, angelic daughter just before she dies.
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,And thou no breath at all?
Then, again, Lear descends into madness. And then he dies.
The English kingdom is restored, but it's France that restores it. The royal line is gone. Only a few loyal, decent men remain. And they are in mourning.
Is there a lesson here? Gloucester offered this in the fourth act.
As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport.
But amid the bleakness and emptiness, as there is in all tragedy, there is hint of redemption. From dust comes, rebirth or at least a glimmer.
I'm not talking phoenix-like beauty or grandness. Certainly not a heavenly kingdom. But something allowing for the possibility of the better.
Which brings me, in my typically roundabout way, to an unusual op-ed in today's New York Times and a decision this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The op-ed first. The author is Christian Longo. Here's the first sentence.
I pant for life: some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature.
Sister Helen Prejean says that none of us is as bad as the worst thing we've done. For Edmund do some good is not "despite" his true nature; it's an indication that his nature is far more complex, more nuanced, than what he has done before.