Ken Ericksen, professor of English, will present “St. Paul, Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss: On Beyond Tragedy” on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield College.
Ericksen will draw on similarities between Dr. Seuss and St. Paul to discuss Shakespearean tragicomedies, serious plays with happy endings. Shakespeare began his career writing comedies, then moved to tragedies and focused on tragicomedies in his latter years. Tragicomedies include “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest,” among others.
“Tragicomedies go beyond tragedies,” said Ericksen, a member of the Linfield faculty since 1965. “They show what can happen if the tragic event occurs in the third act rather than the fifth.”
In the book “On Beyond Zebra,” Dr. Seuss suggests that the alphabet can continue beyond the letter “z,” and that one can go on beyond zebra. Likewise Shakespeare suggests in his tragicomedies that one can go beyond tragedy. St. Paul refers to the human condition of doing wrong in Romans 7 and Shakespeare touches on this same subject in “Macbeth,” a tragedy. Both St. Paul and Shakespeare acknowledge that humans know good from evil but often end up doing evil anyway. St. Paul says, “Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”
According to Ericksen, both Shakespeare and St. Paul suggest an answer.
“In going on beyond tragedy, Shakespeare, like St. Paul, discovers a form which is fully aware of the tragic elements in life, but insists on the possibility of going beyond that and getting back to comedy, back to second chances, new beginnings and happy endings,” Ericksen said.
Ericksen holds a bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University and a master’s and Ph.D. from Rice University.
The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.