John O'Meara

Shakespearean, neo-Romantic critic

John O'Meara Shakespeare Shakespearean Romanticism Literary Critic Novalis


“excellent Shakespearean explorations … The idea of Lutheran depravity without Lutheran grace or Lutheran-Calvinist justification is very strong and original …” {Anthony Gash, Drama Head, The University of East Anglia}

“No other study on Hamlet has yet to consider the way in which the play in its four major aspects of Sorrow, Sexuality, Revenge, and Death, consistently reflects the otherworldly direction of Hamlet's thought and experience …”  {Corona Sharp, English Studies in Canada,Volume 19, Number 4, December 1993}

“O’Meara offers a thesis of evolution in which Shakespeare’s concern with the ego and libido ... is freed by the use of imagination and, in later stages, by inspiration and intuition …” {Arthur F. Kinney, English Language Notes, September, 1998}


“… rigorous … highly pertinent … the present book, especially the final chapter, “Prospero’s Powers: Shakespeare’s Last Phase,” is the culmination of a long journey [in O’Meara’s study of Shakespeare’s work] . The kind of philosophy  underlying The Tempest has its present day equivalence in Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy, “that process of living further into the ‘wisdom’ of man” (p.88) which appears to have close links with the Rosicrucian Enlightenment … ” {R.W. Desai, The Critical Endeavour, Vol. XXIV, January 2018}


                                                           CONTENTS and PREFACE


 John O’Meara, replying to Gary Geddes

I find it interesting that you should be resistant to the Christian reading that comes into the last part of Remembering, because some years ago now, when you read my main autobiography, Defending Her Son, that book made such an impression on you just because of the Christian experience and worldview that runs through it, which at the time you said sent you back to your own experience and made you happily re-live it. However, two different streams are involved here. In the case of my reading of the middle-to-late transition in Shakespeare, I am citing and working out of an esoteric (Rosicrucian) Christian stream, and not what we normally have in mind by the Christian from exoteric tradition, which is largely associated with the Catholic vision, yes. Your favorable response to my autobiography would seem to have been based especially on a Christian experience in exoteric tradition, which has also played a large part in my life, and is often the subject in the autobiography although much of that is also about Steiner and the esoteric Christian stream (there is more on this again in Bereaved).  It may pique your interest to learn that in this esoteric tradition the understanding is that if an artist (or anyone else) experiences transformation ("empathy, imaginative sympathy, and love", as you put it) this is through the indispensable mediation of an initiate and his subsidiaries, who all of them, each one through the other, make it possible for the artist to experience transformation,  the artist (or anyone else) having reached that point of work and opened himself to that possibility. The artist very often is not aware of any of this, but would have some sense of it if he paid more attention to how his experience comes upon him. Behind an initiate like Christian Rosenkreutz and his workers, moreover, stands the Mother (Mary in our most general idea of Her, the Sophia in esoteric tradition) and behind this Feminine figure in turn Christ Himself, although Christ's work need not be operating at all through the exoteric experience of Christianity (though it was very much the case at one time: if you go back, e.g., to Rubens, Raphael, and countless others.)  All of this, as you can see, gets us (in the case of the esoteric) into another world that has never quite found any place in the sphere of literary criticism, though someone like Barfield for example (not to mention O'Meara) is working out of the recognition of the influence of such a world in his criticism (in Barfield's case in Romanticism Comes of Age.) The transformation we are talking about in the case of Shakespeare goes far deeper than most, goes the deepest one might even say, and can be said to be of a final nature to the extent that he could experience this at his relative stage of our evolution--such might be the point of view taken on this based on the revelations Steiner made about our evolution historically. Going through death in the extreme, final way Shakespeare goes through it can in the end be nothing other than going through it with Christ. And it will take us a long time to be able to see that, hence the need to continue to "remember" Shakespeare—such is the direction I am taking with this book. I do present deep structural links here between Shakespeare’s plays and the Rosicrucian stream of experience (which is not, by the way, the Rosicrucian in its usual association with the Freemasonic.) My links are not just textual but also historical as you will have noticed.—I was, also, struck by your own terms: "empathy, imaginative sympathy, and love". I have just published an article in Starlight, the Journal of the Sophia Foundation of North America, which is a development of those very terms seen as creative possibilities brought into existence by the Sophia precisely, all of this in connection with the sophiological thought of Pavel Florensky and Sergius Bulgakov whom I am presenting in my article. The issue in which my article will be appearing will be coming out very soon.

I'm assuming you understood that Remembering in fact reprints pieces that were formerly published separately: the Hamlet piece in 1991, the Othello piece in 1996, Prospero's Powers in 2006 and Shakespeare's Muse in 2007, the last two having appeared in an early form in previous copy (with a limited distribution) respectively in 2002 and 2000. There is that additional dimension to the "remembering" that is taking place in my book. With this book I am myself remembering by turning back to those pieces and re-publishing them. There is a sonnet by Shakespeare quoted at the far end of the book (did you notice it?) in which I take up Shakespeare's point of view with his lover as my own in relation to Shakespeare, offering my excuses for forgetting Shakespeare, as I had for several years, until I came back to him with this book. None of this was noted in the glancing reference that was made to my book in the review that appeared in Studies in English Literature (SEL). The review section of that journal is written up by one person who will cover anywhere bewteen 40! to 50! books, articles etc. The passing reference to my book describes it as "a sombre and slightly misty-eyed appreciation of Shakespearean genius" (as if this were a 19th century critical study!) That's it! That's the reference.--Well, that is the way it is: so many books written today, so little proper reading of them going on ... However, my book did get a fulsome and proper review in The Critical Endeavour. In that review the focus is especially on the last piece on The Tempest (the other pieces, this perceptive reviewer duly noted, having already had their fair share of attention in the past.)