28 July 2013


That is one of my favorite quotes - spoken by Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Today I read an article on Thought Catalog, based on this quote, which made me think really hard about it, questioning the meaning.  Something about the article bothered me.  Not only the fact that the quote itself was quoted incorrectly, or that the author skated over not knowing where it came from, but just the overall interpretation of the meaning.

This line is one that is frequently misquoted, and as a result, people spew out all kinds of varying meanings that they find.  This is all very typical, and some of these things are actually quite valid, but they aren't based off of Shakespeare's actual words, just varied ways of paraphrasing.  When finding the meaning of Shakespeare's actual text, it is essential to get the words right.  Another common misinterpretation is in the word "dream" itself - a dream like you have at night (as is meant by Shakespeare in this line), and a dream as in an aspiration.  This dual meaning of the word "dream" contributes to the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the line in the article.  But what irked me most about the article on Thought Catalog [TC] was that, despite the line being misquoted, the intended message of the words didn't really change, and the meaning that the article took from it is, I believe, not the intended message.  So let me share my view on the meaning of this fairest quote.

I believe that it means we are the dream, as opposed to the ones dreaming.  It is a metaphor - our lives are a dream.  Both dreams, and our lives, are rounded with a sleep.  Besides that given circumstance, the subtext of the words is relaying how our lives, and the fact that we are alive and existing at all, are themselves the type of fantastical and incredible content that is in a dream.  As the TC article says, we are lucky:
"We are lucky to be able to dream, to see even a tenth of what we dream for become some sort of reality."
"We live in a world where a few things are certain: the existence of love, and the existence of our ability..."
Though the author is saying these things in a different context, it does align with the intended message.  We are lucky to be capable of dreaming in any sense of the word.  We are lucky to be capable of love.  And as he also says, the fact that we as individuals do play a part in the lives of others, the dreams of others.

Our lives are the dream simply for the incredible fact that we are breathing, thinking, walking, loving, living creatures with the sheer ability to do any of these things and more.

I'll leave it with Prospero's line in more of its entirety:
"Our revels now are ended: These our actors,
(As I foretold you) were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And like the baseless fabric of this vision
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great Globe it self,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
I really do want to know what people think.
What meaning do you take from these words?
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