The Spectator

Letters | 10 November 2016

Also in Spectator Letters: a word that sums up Shakespeare; Christmas; Bentleys, first names

A downbeat Brexiteer

Sir: Alexander Chancellor (Long Life, 22 October) wondered why Brexiteers were not more upbeat about their victory. I suspect many, like me, were worried about Remainers trying anything they can to overturn the vote. The news that the judges have ruled that Brexit cannot be triggered without a parliamentary vote shows how sadly right we are to be downbeat.
Marion Gurr
Pury End, Northants

Shakespeare’s ‘nothing’

Sir: Charles Moore comments upon the difficulty of selecting just one word to sum up Shakespeare’s poetry. Like Cordelia, I would suggest ‘nothing’. The word occurs 654 times in his works, with greater frequency in the great plays, and provides the hinge upon which perhaps his greatest, King Lear, turns: ‘“Nothing, my lord.” “Nothing?” “Nothing.” “Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again.”’ Shakespeare plays with it, loving its range of meanings, from innuendo to existential despair, to growing spiritual greatness in the embrace of ‘nothing’. It suggests the unencompassable quality of Shakespeare’s thought, as well as his worldly humour and the importance of the numinous in his plays. Lastly, it also occurs in many of his most celebrated speeches: ‘A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ I hereby cast my vote for nothing.
Samuel Johnson
Medellín, Colombia

The ‘aye’ has it

Sir: ‘Aye’ was perhaps the word Charles Moore was searching for in ‘getting’ Shakespeare. He much preferred it to ‘Yes’ in comparison to his peers.
Peter Hoffmann
Edinburgh and Strathpeffer

Oh dear, oh dear

Sir: I have sympathy for Melanie McDonagh and her complaints over the early arrival of holidays (‘Ghosts of the Seasons’, 22 October). In December, it has become depressing to observe well-educated people singing about ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ with no clue where those days land on a calendar.

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