Prospero New Born undermines the conventional concept of Shakespearean criticism and establishes that The Tempest is Shakespeare's greatest tragedy. The criterion of tragedy is not the final death of the protagonist, but is the constant torment he is subjected to during his life, leading him to his inner purification, self-realisation and rebirth and thus taking him to the grandeur of an Ideal Man, a Purushottama. Prof. KV Ramakrishnan evaluates Shakespeare using this novel critical paradigm evolved out of the great Indian tragedies of universal dimen-sion, Ramayanam and Maha Bharatham and substantiates that Shakespeare is, through all his earlier plays, searching for Prospero experimenting with various heroes and incidents, reaching finally in his Purushottama and that Prospero is thus Shakespeare's grandest tragic hero.
A poet of renown in Malayalam, with two Sahitya Akademi (Kerala) Awards along with other recognitions, KV Ramakrishnan is well-known in Malayalam literature for his poetic grandeur, insightful critical acumen and masterly command over language. He has thirty published works to his credit which include collections of poems, literary essays, children's literature, biography, translations, etc. While working as Professor of English in a College of repute in Kerala, he left the -teaching profession voluntarily to take up the editorial charges of a reputed Malayalam weekly. Working with the weekly for eight years, he left it and got himself engrossed in research-oriented studies in Shakespeare, resulting in his "Prospero New Born", which opens a highway to Shakespeare, quite maiden and purely Indian.
Shakespeare is a universal genius, an Everest towering as a challenge to every earnest explorer. I have been passionately in love with him for the past few decades and the result is my 'Prospero New Born'. Here my attempt is to find a maiden road to this height.
At the outset, I reject the traditional paradigm that nothing that does not end in death of the hero is a tragedy. How can death be considered tragic? It is but a natural phenomenon. It is the natural end of the born, which none can avoid. So, tragedy need not necessarily end in death of the hero. The perpetual travail, the life-long mental as well as physical torment suffered by a man, or U. protracted inner death, the cause of which may be his own misdeed, his own action unexpected of him, whether such suffering leads to ultimate death or not, is the tragedy in human life. This protracted suffering takes him to self-realisation and with this self-realisation he is new born. He becomes endowed with heavenly sympathy and human kindness. Now he is ripe enough even to atone with his enemies. This raises him above ordinary human level, elevates him to the heights of a semi-god; this makes him the Ideal Man, the Purushottama. And this makes his tragedy grand.
The idea of tragedy does not confine to drama alone. All genres of creative writing can be tragic.
Every great writer of universal dimension - be it Vaalmiki, Vyaasa, Homer or Shakespeare will, throughout his life, be in search of his Ideal Man, his Purushottama and on realizing this Ideal Man in his masterpiece, he will stop writing since he has nothing more to search after and speak of. Vaalmiki was in search of his Ideal Man and when he reached Sri Rama in Raamaayana he realized his Ideal Man. Shakespeare, through all his major works, is in search of his Ideal Man and on reaching Prospero he attains the final point of his pilgrimage and realizes his Ideal Man. This makes Prospero the noblest tragic hero of Shakespeare and The Tempest the greatest tragedy.
My attempt here is a research into Shakespearean tragedies with this paradigm, in the light of the great Indian Classics Raamaayana and Mahaabhaarata. These two, according to me, are universal tragedies, though traditional Indian criticism is of opinion that there is no tragedy in the Indian psyche. Prospero is the duke of Milan. He neglects his authority to get himself engrossed in studies, which is unexpected of him. Consequently his brother usurps his dukedom. Prospero is subjected to suffer the torture of a lonely life - rather a durance in isolation-for twelve long years. This protracted mental and physical torment effects in him the ripeness needed for a rebirth. The regeneration thus attained enables him to pardon even his enemy whom he gets under his complete control, whom he can punish soundly, if he wills. This raises Prospero to the level of a semi-god. He is the noblest of all Shakespearean tragic heroes since none else is raised to this level of a golden link connecting earth to heaven. No other Shakespearean tragic character-Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, to name only the great four-lives long enough to prove the grandeur of his regeneration. He dies sooner than he is new born. Thus all of them prove to be but experiments in the process of moulding Prospero.
I have quoted, wherever I felt inevitable, from Indian classics and these Sanskrit quotations are presented in English alphabet. I am afraid their reading may perhaps be slightly straining. But my attempt is to establish my arguments with full authenticity, in an Indian perspective and this leaves me with no other alternative. I have explained each verse in simple, lucid language and I am sure this will help a serious reader tide over the hurdle and understand the context.
The background of my work has been detailed in the first chapter. Here I have to record my feelings for Dr. DKM Kartha of Missoula, USA who has been the true driving force behind this project. I am thankful to him for having carefully gone through the entire manuscript with patient insight and also for the discerning introduction with which he has enriched my book. I do not forget the earnest feelings of some other friends also who have been urging me continuously towards the fulfillment of this dream.
I treasure much the goodwill of Allied Publishers, New Delhi, who have come forward to help me take my Prospero New Born to those who love Shakespeare.
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