I was sure I remembered Prospero saying, “such stuff as dreams are made ON” in The Tempest. Apparently it was Humphrey Bogart who decide to use the line in The Maltese Falcon in 1941 but changed it slightly to ‘The stuff that dreams are made of.’ Hence the confusion…
So, full Shakespearean quote:
We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
That, it seems to me, is The Bard’s way of saying that the lifetime we are currently engaged in is a brief dream (sur)rounded by ‘the big sleep’ of our wider existence. (Interesting that the Bogart connections keep sneaking in here. I wonder what that’s about…).
I particularly like the way Shakespeare sees us as ‘stuff’ – some kind of fabric or matrix – on which dreams are created. The play is used as an analogy for life so many times in his work and in that quote, Prospero is talking about a play within a play. Layers and layers and layers…
Still, I digress.
What I wanted to muse about today was dreaming.
When my children and grandson were newborn, I’d watch them dreaming and wonder what form dreams could take for tiny people with no verbal language. Like dog and cat dreams, I suppose, they’d be filled with sensations, memories, emotions that had no need to be confined by words. Were they linking to the ‘surrounding sleep’ – the awareness of who they really were? Were they being given a brief respite from the physical world to return to the light of pure spirit? In fact, is that what dreaming is about for all of us?
My grandson is now, in his own words, “two anna narf” – a magical age. He’s starting to understand the difference between ‘dreams’ and ‘reality’ but the two are still gloriously blurred.
“I see biscuit people!” he announced joyfully to his mother as she went in to his bedroom one morning recently. “They round! And they real – not a dream! They talk to me.”
The biscuit people seem to appear fairly often in his dream state. He hasn’t been able to relate the conversations he has with them, but told me on Saturday that the biscuit people had been sad the night before.
As each of us gropes our way towards remembering and describing dreams, we are forced into using familiar symbols to squeeze such multi-layered experiences into words. Our physical selves cling to familiar ideas with which to clothe these other realities we have visited. I’d need to be a wordsmith of Shakespearean skills to even attempt to verbalise many of my dreams. My own language falls sadly short.
Yet my grandson, it seems, has found another way of using dreams. Having told his mother he was sad that Grandma had gone after I left his home on Monday, he later brightened up and told her he would try to have a dream about me.
What a wonderful idea.
After all, if we are such stuff as dreams are made on, we are perfectly capable of creating – dreaming up – any reality we choose.
Oh, and a very happy 450th birthday to Will Shakespeare 🙂