John Updike, The Same Door, 1956, (extract)
When Gloria [...] had taken her seat, and Peter had swerved into his, Mr
Prosser said, 'Peter Forrester.' 'Yes ?' Peter rose, scrabbling through his book
for the right place. 'Kindly tell the class the exact meaning of the words '
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty face from day
05 to day". 'Peter glanced down at the high-
on his desk. One of the duller girls tittered expectantly from the back of the
room. Peter was popular with the girls; girls that age had minds like moths.
'Peter. With your book shut we have all memorized this passage for today.
Remember ?' The girl in the back of the room squealed in delight. Gloria
10 laid her own book face-
his book with a bang and stared into Gloria's. 'Why,' he said at last, 'I think it
means pretty much what it says.' 'Which is?' 'Why, that tomorrow is something
we often think about. It creeps into our conversation all the time.
We couldn't make any plans without thinking about tomorrow.' 'I see. Then
15 you would say that Macbeth is here referring to the, the date-
life ?' Geoffrey Langer laughed, no doubt to please Mr Prosser. For a moment,
he was pleased. Then he realized he had been playing for laughs at a student's
expense. His paraphrase had made Peter's reading of the lines seem more
ridiculous than it was. He began to retract. 'I admit ...' But Peter was going
20 on; redheads never know when to quit. ' Macbeth means that if we quit
worrying about tomorrow, and just live for today, we could appreciate all the
wonderful things that are going on under our noses.' Mark considered this a
moment before he spoke. He would not be sarcastic. 'Uh, without denying
that there is truth in what you say, Peter, do you think it likely that Macbeth,
25 in his situation, would be expressing such' -
sunny sentiments ?' Geoffrey laughed again. Peter's neck reddened; he studied
the floor. Gloria glared at Mr Prosser, the indignation in her face clearly
meant for him to see. Mark hurried to undo his mistake. 'Don't misunderstand
me, please,' he told Peter. 'I don't have all the answers myself. But it seems to
30 me the whole speech, down to "Signifying nothing", is saying that life is -
a fraud. Nothing wonderful about it.' 'Did Shakespeare really think
that ?' Geoffrey Langer asked, a nervous quickness pitching his voice high.
Mark read into Geoffrey's question his own adolescent premonitions of the
terrible truth. The attempt he must make was plain. He told Peter he could sit
35 down and looked through the window towards the steadying sky. The clouds
were gaining intensity. 'There is,' Mr Prosser slowly began, 'much darkness in
Shakespeare's work, and no play is darker than Macbeth. The atmosphere is
poisonous, oppressive. One critic has said that in this play, humanity
suffocates.' He felt himself in danger of suffocating, and cleared his throat. 'In
40 the middle of his career, Shakespeare wrote plays about men like Hamlet and
Othello and Macbeth -
or some minor flaw in themselves, to become the great men they might have
been. Even Shakespeare's comedies of this period deal with a world gone sour.
It is as if he had seen through the bright, bold surface of his earlier
45 comedies and histories and had looked upon something terrible. It frightened
him, just as some day it may frighten some of you.' In his determination to
find the right words, he had been staring at Gloria, without meaning to.
Embarrassed, she nodded, and, realizing what had happened, he smiled at
her. He tried to make his remarks gentle, even diffident. 'But then I think
50 Shakespeare sensed a redeeming truth. His last plays are serene and
symbolical, as if he had pierced through the ugly facts and reached the realm
where the facts are again beautiful. In this way, Shakespeare's total work is a
more complete image of life than that of any other writer, except perhaps for
Dante, an Italian poet who wrote several centuries earlier.' He had been
55 taken far from the Macbeth soliloquy. Other teachers had been happy to tell
him how the kids made a game of getting him 'going'. He looked towards
Geoffrey. The boys were doodling on his tablet, indifferent. Mr Prosser
concluded, 'The last play Shakespeare wrote is an extraordinary poem
called The Tempest. Some of you may want to read it for your next book
60 reports -
Read all the questions first, then answer them in the given order. Use your own words as far as is appropriate.
1.1. Where does the story take place?
1.2. Which characters are introduced ? What do we learn about these characters?
1.3. Mark Prosser reacts twice to Peter's answers; explain his comments
1.3.1. "the date-
1.3.2. "such sunny sentiments" (ll. 25 + 26).
1.4. What is Geoffrey's reaction to Prosser's explanation of the speech as meaning that life is a "fraud" (ll. 30 + 31)?
1.5. According to Prosser, is there only "darkness" in Shakespeare's work?
2. Analysis and discussion
2.1. Find an adequate heading for the given extract from John Updike's novel.
2.2. What is Prosser's function in the story?
2.3. Give your own short interpretation of the quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
"She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle !
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(W. Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, scene 5)
2.4. Give an account of the part played by the supernatural in Macbeth. Do not write more than 150 words.
2.5. Point out why you liked or disliked Shakespeare's Macbeth.