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Nihilism Comes to the Bard:
A Sestina, by William Shakespeare

Now will I charge you in the band of truth, [efn_note]Alls Well That Ends Well, AW IV.ii.56[/efn_note]
as doubtful thoughts and rash-embraced despair [efn_note]The Merchant of Venice, MV III.ii.109[/efn_note]
can bide the beating of so strong a passion [efn_note]Twelfth Night, TN II.iv.93[/efn_note]
that wear this world out to the ending doom. [efn_note]Sonnets, Sonn.55.12[/efn_note]
To death, or to a vow of single life – [efn_note]A Midsummer Nights Dream, MND I.i.121[/efn_note]
Hark, villains! I will grind your bones to dust. [efn_note]Titus Andronicus, Tit V.ii.185[/efn_note]

Destroy our friends and, after, weep their dust – [efn_note]Alls Well That Ends Well, AW V.iii.64[/efn_note]
but for the certain knowledge of that truth, [efn_note]King John, KJ I.i.61[/efn_note]
to grunt and sweat under a weary life, [efn_note]Hamlet, Ham III.i.77[/efn_note]
surfeits, imposthumes, grief and damned despair, [efn_note]Venus and Adonis, Ven.743[/efn_note]
but bear it out, even to the edge of doom, [efn_note]Sonnets, Sonn.116.12[/efn_note]
allaying both their fury and my passion. [efn_note]The Tempest, Tem I.ii.393[/efn_note]

And those that mingle reason with their passion, [efn_note]King Lear, KL II.iv.229[/efn_note]
begrimed with sweat and smeared all with dust; [efn_note]The Rape of Lucrece, Luc.1381[/efn_note]
What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom? [efn_note]Macbeth, Mac IV.i.116[/efn_note]
That is no slander, sir, which is a truth: [efn_note]Romeo and Juliet, RJ IV.i.33[/efn_note]
Hope gives not such warrant as despair… [efn_note]Henry IV Part 2, 2H4 I.iii.40[/efn_note]
We pay sour earnest for a sweeter life. [efn_note]King Edward III, E3 IV.iv.3[/efn_note]

So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life, [efn_note]Sonnets, Sonn.74.9[/efn_note]
and with such sober and unnoted passion [efn_note]Timon of Athens, Tim III.v.21[/efn_note]
here overcome, as one full of despair – [efn_note]Venus and Adonis, Ven.955[/efn_note]
all follow this, and come to dust. [efn_note]Cymbeline, Cym IV.ii.269[/efn_note]
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth, [efn_note]Sonnets, Sonn.37.4[/efn_note]
as we draw the lottery of our doom. [efn_note]King Edward III, E3 IV.iv.149[/efn_note]

From the creation to the general doom [efn_note]The Rape of Lucrece, Luc.924[/efn_note]
that makes calamity of so long a life, [efn_note]Hamlet, Ham III.i.69[/efn_note]
this is the show and seal of nature’s truth: [efn_note]Alls Well That Ends Well, AW I.iii.127[/efn_note]
inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion [efn_note]As You Like It, AYL III.ii.394[/efn_note]
no worthier than the dust! [efn_note]Julius Caesar, JC III.i.116.1[/efn_note]
Our hap is loss, our hope but sad despair. [efn_note]Henry VI Part 3, 3H6 II.iii.9[/efn_note]

Two loves I have, of comfort and despair, [efn_note]Sonnets, Sonn.144.1[/efn_note]
firm and irrevocable is my doom, [efn_note]As You Like It, AYL I.iii.81[/efn_note]
as when a whirlwind takes the summer dust. [efn_note]King Edward III, E3 III.i.167[/efn_note]
O, that I could but call these dead to life! [efn_note]Henry VI Part 1, 1H6 IV.vii.81[/efn_note]
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, [efn_note]Hamlet, Ham II.ii.549[/efn_note]
dare no man answer in a case of truth? [efn_note]Henry VI Part 1, 1H6 II.iv.2[/efn_note]

And my ending is despair! [efn_note]The Tempest / Tem epilogue.15[/efn_note] This hateful life! [efn_note]King John / KJ III.i.179.1[/efn_note]
It may stand till the perpetual doom, [efn_note]The Merry Wives of Windsor / MW V.v.58[/efn_note] into a towering passion, [efn_note]Hamlet / Ham V.ii.80.1[/efn_note]
until this day, to scour it in the dust. [efn_note]Pericles / Per II.ii.54[/efn_note] I speak no more than truth. [efn_note]Troilus and Cressida / TC I.i.65[/efn_note]

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