Chris Rock and William Shakespeare

If a woman introduces her new man to her girlfriend, when they walk away, her friend goes, “I gotta get him! And I will slit that bitch’s throat to do it!” Chris Rock, Contemporary Comedian and Anthropological Genius Is it mine eye, or Valentinus’ praise, Her true perfection or my false transgression, That makes me reasonless, to reason thus? William Shakespeare, 16th Century Author and Anthropological Genius Where do our desires come from? How are they formed? These are questions Chris Rock and William Shakespeare explore. We learn what to desire from one another. Contrary to popular belief, our desires are not determined by an object, but by someone else – a third person who directs our desires to a certain object. As highly social creatures, we unconsciously imitate the desires of others, and this imitation of desire often leads us into rivalry for an object. Take this clip from Chris Rock. He reveals this unfortunate truth about human relationships and desire: We often fall into conflict with our close friends because we share desires for certain objects. We admire our friends, and, unconsciously, we want to have the same things in common, including the people we fall in love with. When that object cannot be shared, such as a significant other, we fall into a bitter conflict where we will slit each other’s throat (literally or figuratively) to obtain the one we think we love. If a woman introduces her new man to her girlfriend, when they walk away, her friend goes, “I gotta get him! And I will slit that bitch’s throat to do it!” Shakespeare understood the same concept of imitated desire and love. In his play The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Valentine and Proteus have been great friends since childhood. As they grow up, Valentine leaves his hometown to be educated in Milan. Proteus would have gone with Valentine, but he chooses to stay home to be with his love – Julia. Proteus soon visits his good buddy Valentine, who has fallen in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan. Valentine introduces Proteus to Silvia, and when she leaves, Valentine tells Proteus how much he loves Silvia. After hearing how amazing Silvia is, Proteus forgets about his old flame Julia, and becomes infatuated with Silvia – simply because his good buddy directs his desire toward Silvia. Ahh. The classic love triangle. It is no innocent thing. Shakespeare reveals how this shared desire over something that cannot be shared leads to a bitter cycle of conflict, violence, and betrayal. The true genius of Shakespeare, though, is that he shows the way out of this cycle – forgiveness. After Proteus realizes his treachery, he seeks forgiveness and Valentine gives it, saying: Then I am paid; And once again I do receive thee honest. Who by repentance is not satisfied Is nor of heaven nor earth, for these are pleased. By penitence the Eternal’s wrath appeased: And, that my love may appear plain and free, All that was mine in Silvia I give to thee. Valentine does two things we may find very strange. First, he forgives his friend. Second, in order to show his forgiveness is “plain and free,” he allows the competition over Silvia to continue. Do you think we learn what to desire from others? Or do our desires arise from within ourselves? Have you ever wanted to “slit that bitch’s throat” in order to get the one you love? Was Valentine foolish to forgive Proteus? Do you think it was wise for Valentine to allow the competition for Silvia to continue?

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