Untune that string…

universalwolfsend‘Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing melts
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.’                                    
[Troilus & Cressida, 1.3.109-124]

The less comment here the better. Degree is the key concept, one that Shakespeare understands as intrinsic to the Divine will. Human greed and ambition – the will to power – have destroyed a sense of connectedness to Nature and with it a consideration of the steps necessary for any kind of life-affirming achievement. All action is reciprocal and self-reflexive, so when we harm another living thing we harm ourselves. All destruction then can be seen as a form of cannibalism, hence the terrifying crowning image of the universal wolf devouring himself.

Take Physic, Pomp!

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