William Shakespeare on Death 0

William Shakespeare is probably the most famous English writer in history, responsible for penning many of the most well-known poems, sonnets and plays in the English language. His writing continues to be appreciated some 400 years after his death. Though the true date of his birth remains a mystery, it is assumed to have been close to 23 April, the very same day on which he died. Shakespeare was perhaps best known for his dramas, which as one might expect are full of tragic deaths. By way of a celebration of his life and works, we’ve compiled a list of ten of his best quotes on death.

William Shakespeare

  1. ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths.’ – Julius Caesar

As part of one of the most famous quotes in Julius Caesar, ‘cowards die many times’ makes a comparison between the many small, personal ‘deaths’ a coward faces every time they shy away from a challenge and the one pure and true physical death that the valiant experience in the heat of battle.

 

  1. ‘The worst is death, and death will have his day.’ – King Richard II

Shakespeare often personified death and this is one of the most famous examples of him doing so. As Richard II hears that he has no soldiers to fight Henry, he immediately collapses into woe and despair, giving the audience a true indication of what kind of a king he is.

 

  1. ‘Death lies on her like an untimely frost.’ – Romeo & Juliet

Though Shakespeare often gave us profound insights into the effects or consequences of death, he was also well-known for his beautiful descriptions. This is the perfect example of such a description, with so much information and detail squeezed into a succinct and visceral phrasing.

 

  1. ‘Why, thou owest god a death.’ – Henry IV, Part I

This short quote is the introduction to one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies. It is followed by a long speech by the character Falstaff, who, contrary to the opinion of the character that speaks this quote, rallies against the futility of dying for an abstract ideal like honour.

 

  1. ‘Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.’ – Sonnet 66

This line begins Sonnet 66, a poem devoted to the problems and inequities in Shakespeare’s time. In it, he adopts a world-weary tone that suggests he is tired with the inequality, untrustworthiness and treachery of his time and muses that death may be the only solution to his woes.

 

  1. ‘To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come.’ – Hamlet

In this quote, Hamlet is talking to himself, questioning whether it is better to die than to face his complex difficulties head on. However, he’s concerned that even in death, he will not be free from the dreams and the earthly problems that haunt him in life.

 

  1. ‘So wise so young, they say, do never live long.’ – Richard III

As Richard III is a play about a man of questionable mental clarity murdering his own brother in order to become king, it’s no surprise that there’s a number of interesting quotes about death among its lines. This quote advises that young and clever men need be wary because the old will always consider them a threat.

 

  1. ‘By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too.’ – Cymbeline

Cymbeline may not be one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing profound or interesting to say to the modern reader. This quote comes in Act 5, Scene 5 and discusses the inevitability of death. Though a doctor may prolong life, eventually even they will pass away and nothing will stand in the way of death.

 

  1. ‘But now two mirrors of his princely semblance, are crack’d in pieces by malignant Death.’ – Richard III

This quote is spoken by the Duchess of York and relates to her two sons. Learning of the King’s death, the Duchess grieves the loss and laments the way death has corrupted both of her boys.

 

  1. ‘Ay, but to die, and go we know not where.’ – Measure for Measure

Another one of Shakespeare’s less remembered works, Measure for Measure talks a great deal about death. This quote discusses the uncertainty surrounding death and our inability to ever know exactly what lies the other side of life.

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The Anatomical Art of Salvador Dali 1

Dali Anatomical Art

There are few, if any, people interested in modern art that will not recognise the name Salvador Dali. Now, nearly thirty years after his death, he is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century and is lauded for revolutionising the way we think about painting and art. In his paintings, the human body figures extensively and was used over and over again in a variety of innovative ways. Here we take a look at some of his most important anatomical art, and consider how and why Dali used the human form so much in his work.

As we shall see below, the anatomy as represented visually by Dali was heavily influenced by the medical and scientific thinking of the day, and the morbid fascination brought on by the horrors of World War II, and later the atomic age.

 All images courtesy of WikiArt.org

 

The Anthropomorphic Cabinet – 1936

Dali was fascinated with psychoanalysis and the ideas of Sigmund Freud, arguing that it was he who discovered that the human body ‘is nowadays full of secret drawers that only psychoanalysis is capable to open.’ This idea is realised in Dali’s painting The Anthropomorphic Cabinet, where the famous ancient sculpture Venus de Milo was adapted to become a human chest of drawers, or perhaps more accurately in terms of Dali’s art, a cabinet was adapted to take on a human form. This painting was preceded by Dali’s similarly themed Atmospheric Chair, in which abstract, but possibly human, shapes emerge from a cabinet.

 

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) – 1936

Dali Soft Construction

Salvador Dali often seemed to use the human form and its distortions to reflect on the important contemporary issues of his time. Soft Construction with Boiled Beans seems to be one such painting. A commentary on the horrors and difficulties of the Spanish Civil War, in which Dali and many of his friends found themselves caught up, the painting attempts to visualise the destruction of the conflict by creating an equally monstrous human form. Dali himself declared that the diabolical head displayed in the painting was inspired by Francisco Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son.

 

Metamorphosis of Narcissus – 1937

Dali Narcissus

One of Dali’s more famous paintings, Metamorphosis of Narcissus plays with the idea of ego, self-love and the Ancient Greek myth from which narcissism derives its name. The story revolves around Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection in a lake and eventually being immortalised by the Gods in the form of a flower. In Dali’s painting, the human form is contrasted with a similarly shaped rock formation that can also be easily interpreted as a stony hand from which a flower grows. The painting had a great impact, with it being shown to Freud himself, and with Dali’s own secretary, the photographer and author Robert Descharnes, arguing that it meant a great deal to the artist as well.

 

The Face of War – 1940

Dali The Face of War

Another Dali painting inspired by the brutalities of war, The Face of War was finished between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Second World War. It portrays a decaying face, perhaps that of a corpse, that contains identical faces in its eye sockets and mouth. These smaller faces also contain the same face in their eyes and mouth, suggesting that this process goes on forever in an infinite regress. On the topic of the painting, Dali wrote in his Diary: ‘Not a single minute of my life passes without the sublime Catholic, apostolic, and Roman spectre of death accompanying me even in the least important of my most subtle and capricious fantasies.’

 

Galatea of the Spheres – 1952

Dali Spheres

As one of Dali’s later paintings, Galatea of the Spheres reconciles Dali’s unique surrealist style with the new science and ideas emerging in the middle of the 20th Century. Fascinated by the atom and nuclear physics in the wake of the first dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, Dali sought to create a piece of art that reflected the idea that the entire universe was made up of atoms, between which there was a great deal of space or emptiness, and created this portrait of his wife in response. Also influenced by classical mythology, the painting appears to be one of Dali’s more straightforward to interpret, but is no less impressive for the fact.

Four of Our Favourite Morbid Museums 0

Hunterian Museum

The term ‘morbidly fascinating’ is one that we use often and apply to a great many things – both to people and to phenomena. It’s probably also the most succinct and suitable description available for four of our favourite museums.

 

The Hunterian, the Morbid Anatomy Museum, Bodyworlds and the Museum of Mummies all tackle the issue of death in a different way – whether it’s in terms of preservation techniques, anatomy or artistic representation – and are some of the most interesting and perhaps controversial museums in the world.

 

While many of the exhibitions may not be to everyone’s taste, they provide us with an opportunity to face death and to recognise the fact of human mortality in a visceral and unflinching manner, while often teaching us a great deal about the human body, societal attitudes towards death and our own ability to talk about the issue. Here we take a look at what makes each of the four museums worthy of a visit.

 

Hunterian – London, UK

Often referred to as ‘the weirdest museum in London’, The Hunterian is based in the Royal College of Surgeons near Holborn and contains a fascinating array of anatomical specimens. Centred around John Hunter’s large collection of skeletons, skulls, organs and diseased body parts, over the years the museum has expanded its collection to include surgical instruments and anatomy tables. It has developed a large and loyal following, most of whom appreciate the free entry and weird and wonderful exhibitions always on offer.

Hunterian Museum

While it has its origins in the government purchase of the famous scientist and surgeon’s specimens in 1799, the Hunterian has made a number of important acquisitions over its lifetime, most notably in its odontological department and with Richard Owen’s natural history collections. It is home to the skeleton of the famous ‘Irish giant’ and the historically important Evelyn tables and the museum has committed to the development and renovation of the building in which it is housed.

 

In May 2017, the Hunterian closed for a three year period in order to perform necessary repairs and modernisation works. It is scheduled to reopen in 2020.

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Morbid Anatomy Museum – Brooklyn, USA

Located in Brooklyn, New York, the Morbid Anatomy Museum was the brainchild of Joanna Ebenstein and Tracy Hurley Martin, two individuals who discovered they shared a passion for the macabre and morbid and decided to act on it.

Morbid Anatomy Museum

While the idea was first realised as a blog and then a library, it finally became a fully-fledged museum space in 2014, complete with lecture space, café and shop. Dedicated to the strange and surreal, the museum houses a collection of death related curiosities and exhibits ranging from Victorian taxidermy and preserved insects to antique medical contraptions.

The Morbid Anatomy Museum hosts regular death cafes. For more about death cafes, check out our piece.

 

Bodyworlds – Berlin, Germany

Though going to visit a museum exhibition curated by someone commonly referred to as ‘Dr. Death’ may not seem like everyone’s idea of a great day out, the Body Worlds permanent exhibition in Berlin’s Menschen Museum has attracted an incredible number of visitors over the last few years.

 

The museum has attracted its fair share of controversy (it faced a court battle over the legality of its displays in 2014), but it has also become one of the most famous anatomical exhibitions ever, bringing enthusiasts to Berlin from all over the world.

 

Consisting of 20 human bodies, each posed in a different position and performing various activities and tasks, Body Worlds is famous for the way each of these models has been skinned and preserved, revealing all of the internal detail we never get to see, from the capillary structure to the musculature. While not for the faint-hearted, Body Worlds provides us with a fascinating glimpse inside the human body, both in life and death.

 

Museum of Mummies – Guanajuato, Mexico

With over 100 mummified bodies on permanent display, the Museum of Mummies in Guanajuato, Mexico, is often labelled the most morbid museum in the world. While some minor embalming techniques were used to prepare the bodies, it’s actually the climate of the region that causes most of the mummification process, meaning the museum doesn’t have to go far to find its exhibits. In fact, nearly all of the mummies on display have been disinterred from the cemetery next to the museum and include a diverse array of individuals, including infants, Inquisition victims and criminals.

Museum of Mummies